Scene: A terrace on the Seraglio. Mahmud sleeping, an indian slave sitting beside his couch.
CHORUS OF GREEK CAPTIVE WOMEN: We strew these opiate flowers On thy restless pillow,— They were stripped from Orient bowers, By the Indian billow. Be thy sleep Calm and deep, Like theirs who fell—not ours who weep!
INDIAN: Away, unlovely dreams! Away, false shapes of sleep Be his, as Heaven seems, Clear, and bright, and deep! Soft as love, and calm as death, Sweet as a summer night without a breath.
CHORUS: Sleep, sleep! our song is laden With the soul of slumber; It was sung by a Samian maiden, Whose lover was of the number Who now keep That calm sleep Whence none may wake, where none shall weep.
INDIAN: I touch thy temples pale! I breathe my soul on thee! And could my prayers avail, All my joy should be Dead, and I would live to weep, So thou mightst win one hour of quiet sleep.
CHORUS: Breathe low, low The spell of the mighty mistress now! When Conscience lulls her sated snake, And Tyrants sleep, let Freedom wake. Breathe low—low The words which, like secret fire, shall flow Through the veins of the frozen earth—low, low!
SEMICHORUS 1: Life may change, but it may fly not; Hope may vanish, but can die not; Truth be veiled, but still it burneth; Love repulsed,—but it returneth!
SEMICHORUS 2: Yet were life a charnel where Hope lay coffined with Despair; Yet were truth a sacred lie, Love were lust—
SEMICHORUS 1: If Liberty Lent not life its soul of light, Hope its iris of delight, Truth its prophet's robe to wear, Love its power to give and bear.
CHORUS: In the great morning of the world, The Spirit of God with might unfurled The flag of Freedom over Chaos, And all its banded anarchs fled, Like vultures frighted from Imaus, Before an earthquake's tread.— So from Time's tempestuous dawn Freedom's splendour burst and shone:— Thermopylae and Marathon Caught like mountains beacon-lighted, The springing Fire.—The winged glory On Philippi half-alighted, Like an eagle on a promontory. Its unwearied wings could fan The quenchless ashes of Milan. From age to age, from man to man, It lived; and lit from land to land Florence, Albion, Switzerland.
Then night fell; and, as from night, Reassuming fiery flight, From the West swift Freedom came, Against the course of Heaven and doom. A second sun arrayed in flame, To burn, to kindle, to illume. From far Atlantis its young beams Chased the shadows and the dreams. France, with all her sanguine steams, Hid, but quenched it not; again Through clouds its shafts of glory rain From utmost Germany to Spain. As an eagle fed with morning Scorns the embattled tempest's warning, When she seeks her aerie hanging In the mountain-cedar's hair, And her brood expect the clanging Of her wings through the wild air, Sick with famine:—Freedom, so To what of Greece remaineth now Returns; her hoary ruins glow Like Orient mountains lost in day; Beneath the safety of her wings Her renovated nurslings prey, And in the naked lightenings Of truth they purge their dazzled eyes. Let Freedom leave—where'er she flies, A Desert, or a Paradise: Let the beautiful and the brave Share her glory, or a grave.
SEMICHORUS 1: With the gifts of gladness Greece did thy cradle strew;
SEMICHORUS 2: With the tears of sadness Greece did thy shroud bedew!
SEMICHORUS 1: With an orphan's affection She followed thy bier through Time;
SEMICHORUS 2: And at thy resurrection Reappeareth, like thou, sublime!
SEMICHORUS 1: If Heaven should resume thee, To Heaven shall her spirit ascend;
SEMICHORUS 2: If Hell should entomb thee, To Hell shall her high hearts bend.
SEMICHORUS 1: If Annihilation—
SEMICHORUS 2: Dust let her glories be! And a name and a nation Be forgotten, Freedom, with thee!
INDIAN: His brow grows darker—breathe not—move not! He starts—he shudders—ye that love not, With your panting loud and fast, Have awakened him at last.
MAHMUD [STARTING FROM HIS SLEEP]: Man the Seraglio-guard! make fast the gate! What! from a cannonade of three short hours? 'Tis false! that breach towards the Bosphorus Cannot be practicable yet—who stirs? Stand to the match; that when the foe prevails One spark may mix in reconciling ruin The conqueror and the conquered! Heave the tower Into the gap—wrench off the roof! [ENTER HASSAN.] Ha! what! The truth of day lightens upon my dream And I am Mahmud still.
HASSAN: Your Sublime Highness Is strangely moved.
MAHMUD: The times do cast strange shadows On those who watch and who must rule their course, Lest they, being first in peril as in glory, Be whelmed in the fierce ebb:—and these are of them. Thrice has a gloomy vision hunted me As thus from sleep into the troubled day; It shakes me as the tempest shakes the sea, Leaving no figure upon memory's glass. Would that—no matter. Thou didst say thou knewest A Jew, whose spirit is a chronicle Of strange and secret and forgotten things. I bade thee summon him:—'tis said his tribe Dream, and are wise interpreters of dreams.
HASSAN: The Jew of whom I spake is old,—so old He seems to have outlived a world's decay; The hoary mountains and the wrinkled ocean Seem younger still than he;—his hair and beard Are whiter than the tempest-sifted snow; His cold pale limbs and pulseless arteries Are like the fibres of a cloud instinct With light, and to the soul that quickens them Are as the atoms of the mountain-drift To the winter wind:—but from his eye looks forth A life of unconsumed thought which pierces The Present, and the Past, and the To-come. Some say that this is he whom the great prophet Jesus, the son of Joseph, for his mockery, Mocked with the curse of immortality. Some feign that he is Enoch: others dream He was pre-adamite and has survived Cycles of generation and of ruin. The sage, in truth, by dreadful abstinence And conquering penance of the mutinous flesh, Deep contemplation, and unwearied study, In years outstretched beyond the date of man, May have attained to sovereignty and science Over those strong and secret things and thoughts Which others fear and know not.
MAHMUD: I would talk With this old Jew.
HASSAN: Thy will is even now Made known to him, where he dwells in a sea-cavern 'Mid the Demonesi, less accessible Than thou or God! He who would question him Must sail alone at sunset, where the stream Of Ocean sleeps around those foamless isles, When the young moon is westering as now, And evening airs wander upon the wave; And when the pines of that bee-pasturing isle, Green Erebinthus, quench the fiery shadow Of his gilt prow within the sapphire water, Then must the lonely helmsman cry aloud 'Ahasuerus!' and the caverns round Will answer 'Ahasuerus!' If his prayer Be granted, a faint meteor will arise Lighting him over Marmora, and a wind Will rush out of the sighing pine-forest, And with the wind a storm of harmony Unutterably sweet, and pilot him Through the soft twilight to the Bosphorus: Thence at the hour and place and circumstance Fit for the matter of their conference The Jew appears. Few dare, and few who dare Win the desired communion—but that shout Bodes—
[A SHOUT WITHIN.]
MAHMUD: Evil, doubtless; Like all human sounds. Let me converse with spirits.
HASSAN: That shout again.
MAHMUD: This Jew whom thou hast summoned—
HASSAN: Will be here—
MAHMUD: When the omnipotent hour to which are yoked He, I, and all things shall compel—enough! Silence those mutineers—that drunken crew, That crowd about the pilot in the storm. Ay! strike the foremost shorter by a head! They weary me, and I have need of rest. Kinks are like stars—they rise and set, they have The worship of the world, but no repose.
CHORUS: Worlds on worlds are rolling ever From creation to decay, Like the bubbles on a river Sparkling, bursting, borne away. But they are still immortal Who, through birth's orient portal And death's dark chasm hurrying to and fro, Clothe their unceasing flight In the brief dust and light Gathered around their chariots as they go; New shapes they still may weave, New gods, new laws receive, Bright or dim are they as the robes they last On Death's bare ribs had cast.
A power from the unknown God, A Promethean conqueror, came; Like a triumphal path he trod The thorns of death and shame. A mortal shape to him Was like the vapour dim Which the orient planet animates with light; Hell, Sin, and Slavery came, Like bloodhounds mild and tame, Nor preyed, until their Lord had taken flight; The moon of Mahomet Arose, and it shall set: While blazoned as on Heaven's immortal noon The cross leads generations on.
Swift as the radiant shapes of sleep From one whose dreams are Paradise Fly, when the fond wretch wakes to weep, And Day peers forth with her blank eyes; So fleet, so faint, so fair, The Powers of earth and air Fled from the folding-star of Bethlehem: Apollo, Pan, and Love, And even Olympian Jove Grew weak, for killing Truth had glared on them; Our hills and seas and streams, Dispeopled of their dreams, Their waters turned to blood, their dew to tears, Wailed for the golden years.
[ENTER MAHMUD, HASSAN, DAOOD, AND OTHERS.]
MAHMUD: More gold? our ancestors bought gold with victory, And shall I sell it for defeat?
DAOOD: The Janizars Clamour for pay.
MAHMUD: Go! bid them pay themselves With Christian blood! Are there no Grecian virgins Whose shrieks and spasms and tears they may enjoy? No infidel children to impale on spears? No hoary priests after that Patriarch Who bent the curse against his country's heart, Which clove his own at last? Go! bid them kill, Blood is the seed of gold.
DAOOD: It has been sown, And yet the harvest to the sicklemen Is as a grain to each.
MAHMUD: Then, take this signet, Unlock the seventh chamber in which lie The treasures of victorious Solyman,— An empire's spoil stored for a day of ruin. O spirit of my sires! is it not come? The prey-birds and the wolves are gorged and sleep; But these, who spread their feast on the red earth, Hunger for gold, which fills not.—See them fed; Then, lead them to the rivers of fresh death. [EXIT DAOOD.] O miserable dawn, after a night More glorious than the day which it usurped! O faith in God! O power on earth! O word Of the great prophet, whose o'ershadowing wings Darkened the thrones and idols of the West, Now bright!—For thy sake cursed be the hour, Even as a father by an evil child, When the orient moon of Islam rolled in triumph From Caucasus to White Ceraunia! Ruin above, and anarchy below; Terror without, and treachery within; The Chalice of destruction full, and all Thirsting to drink; and who among us dares To dash it from his lips? and where is Hope?
HASSAN: The lamp of our dominion still rides high; One God is God—Mahomet is His prophet. Four hundred thousand Moslems, from the limits Of utmost Asia, irresistibly Throng, like full clouds at the Sirocco's cry; But not like them to weep their strength in tears: They bear destroying lightning, and their step Wakes earthquake to consume and overwhelm, And reign in ruin. Phrygian Olympus, Tmolus, and Latmos, and Mycale, roughen With horrent arms; and lofty ships even now, Like vapours anchored to a mountain's edge, Freighted with fire and whirlwind, wait at Scala The convoy of the ever-veering wind. Samos is drunk with blood;—the Greek has paid Brief victory with swift loss and long despair. The false Moldavian serfs fled fast and far When the fierce shout of 'Allah-illa-Allah!' Rose like the war-cry of the northern wind Which kills the sluggish clouds, and leaves a flock Of wild swans struggling with the naked storm. So were the lost Greeks on the Danube's day! If night is mute, yet the returning sun Kindles the voices of the morning birds; Nor at thy bidding less exultingly Than birds rejoicing in the golden day, The Anarchies of Africa unleash Their tempest-winged cities of the sea, To speak in thunder to the rebel world. Like sulphurous clouds, half-shattered by the storm, They sweep the pale Aegean, while the Queen Of Ocean, bound upon her island-throne, Far in the West, sits mourning that her sons Who frown on Freedom spare a smile for thee: Russia still hovers, as an eagle might Within a cloud, near which a kite and crane Hang tangled in inextricable fight, To stoop upon the victor;—for she fears The name of Freedom, even as she hates thine. But recreant Austria loves thee as the Grave Loves Pestilence, and her slow dogs of war Fleshed with the chase, come up from Italy, And howl upon their limits; for they see The panther, Freedom, fled to her old cover, Amid seas and mountains, and a mightier brood Crouch round. What Anarch wears a crown or mitre, Or bears the sword, or grasps the key of gold, Whose friends are not thy friends, whose foes thy foes? Our arsenals and our armouries are full; Our forts defy assault; ten thousand cannon Lie ranged upon the beach, and hour by hour Their earth-convulsing wheels affright the city; The galloping of fiery steeds makes pale The Christian merchant; and the yellow Jew Hides his hoard deeper in the faithless earth. Like clouds, and like the shadows of the clouds, Over the hills of Anatolia, Swift in wide troops the Tartar chivalry Sweep;—the far flashing of their starry lances Reverberates the dying light of day. We have one God, one King, one Hope, one Law; But many-headed Insurrection stands Divided in itself, and soon must fall.
MAHMUD: Proud words, when deeds come short, are seasonable: Look, Hassan, on yon crescent moon, emblazoned Upon that shattered flag of fiery cloud Which leads the rear of the departing day; Wan emblem of an empire fading now! See how it trembles in the blood-red air, And like a mighty lamp whose oil is spent Shrinks on the horizon's edge, while, from above, One star with insolent and victorious light Hovers above its fall, and with keen beams, Like arrows through a fainting antelope, Strikes its weak form to death.
HASSAN: Even as that moon Renews itself—
MAHMUD: Shall we be not renewed! Far other bark than ours were needed now To stem the torrent of descending time: The Spirit that lifts the slave before his lord Stalks through the capitals of armed kings, And spreads his ensign in the wilderness: Exults in chains; and, when the rebel falls, Cries like the blood of Abel from the dust; And the inheritors of the earth, like beasts When earthquake is unleashed, with idiot fear Cower in their kingly dens—as I do now. What were Defeat when Victory must appal? Or Danger, when Security looks pale?— How said the messenger—who, from the fort Islanded in the Danube, saw the battle Of Bucharest?—that—
HASSAN: Ibrahim's scimitar Drew with its gleam swift victory from Heaven, To burn before him in the night of battle— A light and a destruction.
MAHMUD: Ay! the day Was ours: but how?—
HASSAN: The light Wallachians, The Arnaut, Servian, and Albanian allies Fled from the glance of our artillery Almost before the thunderstone alit. One half the Grecian army made a bridge Of safe and slow retreat, with Moslem dead; The other—
MAHMUD: Speak—tremble not.—
HASSAN: Islanded By victor myriads, formed in hollow square With rough and steadfast front, and thrice flung back The deluge of our foaming cavalry; Thrice their keen wedge of battle pierced our lines. Our baffled army trembled like one man Before a host, and gave them space; but soon, From the surrounding hills, the batteries blazed, Kneading them down with fire and iron rain: Yet none approached; till, like a field of corn Under the hook of the swart sickleman, The band, intrenched in mounds of Turkish dead, Grew weak and few.—Then said the Pacha, 'Slaves, Render yourselves—they have abandoned you— What hope of refuge, or retreat, or aid? We grant your lives.' 'Grant that which is thine own!' Cried one, and fell upon his sword and died! Another—'God, and man, and hope abandon me; But I to them, and to myself, remain Constant:'—he bowed his head, and his heart burst. A third exclaimed, 'There is a refuge, tyrant, Where thou darest not pursue, and canst not harm Shouldst thou pursue; there we shall meet again.' Then held his breath, and, after a brief spasm, The indignant spirit cast its mortal garment Among the slain—dead earth upon the earth! So these survivors, each by different ways, Some strange, all sudden, none dishonourable, Met in triumphant death; and when our army Closed in, while yet wonder, and awe, and shame Held back the base hyaenas of the battle That feed upon the dead and fly the living, One rose out of the chaos of the slain: And if it were a corpse which some dread spirit Of the old saviours of the land we rule Had lifted in its anger, wandering by;— Or if there burned within the dying man Unquenchable disdain of death, and faith Creating what it feigned;—I cannot tell— But he cried, 'Phantoms of the free, we come! Armies of the Eternal, ye who strike To dust the citadels of sanguine kings, And shake the souls throned on their stony hearts, And thaw their frostwork diadems like dew;— O ye who float around this clime, and weave The garment of the glory which it wears, Whose fame, though earth betray the dust it clasped, Lies sepulchred in monumental thought;— Progenitors of all that yet is great, Ascribe to your bright senate, O accept In your high ministrations, us, your sons— Us first, and the more glorious yet to come! And ye, weak conquerors! giants who look pale When the crushed worm rebels beneath your tread, The vultures and the dogs, your pensioners tame, Are overgorged; but, like oppressors, still They crave the relic of Destruction's feast. The exhalations and the thirsty winds Are sick with blood; the dew is foul with death; Heaven's light is quenched in slaughter: thus, where'er Upon your camps, cities, or towers, or fleets, The obscene birds the reeking remnants cast Of these dead limbs,—upon your streams and mountains, Upon your fields, your gardens, and your housetops, Where'er the winds shall creep, or the clouds fly, Or the dews fall, or the angry sun look down With poisoned light—Famine, and Pestilence, And Panic, shall wage war upon our side! Nature from all her boundaries is moved Against ye: Time has found ye light as foam. The Earth rebels; and Good and Evil stake Their empire o'er the unborn world of men On this one cast;—but ere the die be thrown, The renovated genius of our race, Proud umpire of the impious game, descends, A seraph-winged Victory, bestriding The tempest of the Omnipotence of God, Which sweeps all things to their appointed doom, And you to oblivion!'—More he would have said, But—
MAHMUD: Died—as thou shouldst ore thy lips had painted Their ruin in the hues of our success. A rebel's crime, gilt with a rebel's tongue! Your heart is Greek, Hassan.
HASSAN: It may be so: A spirit not my own wrenched me within, And I have spoken words I fear and hate; Yet would I die for—
MAHMUD: Live! oh live! outlive Me and this sinking empire. But the fleet—
MAHMUD: The fleet which, like a flock of clouds Chased by the wind, flies the insurgent banner! Our winged castles from their merchant ships! Our myriads before their weak pirate bands! Our arms before their chains! our years of empire Before their centuries of servile fear! Death is awake! Repulse is on the waters! They own no more the thunder-bearing banner Of Mahmud; but, like hounds of a base breed, Gorge from a stranger's hand, and rend their master.
HASSAN: Latmos, and Ampelos, and Phanae saw The wreck—
MAHMUD: The caves of the Icarian isles Told each to the other in loud mockery, And with the tongue as of a thousand echoes, First of the sea-convulsing fight—and, then,— Thou darest to speak—senseless are the mountains: Interpret thou their voice!
HASSAN: My presence bore A part in that day's shame. The Grecian fleet Bore down at daybreak from the North, and hung As multitudinous on the ocean line, As cranes upon the cloudless Thracian wind. Our squadron, convoying ten thousand men, Was stretching towards Nauplia when the battle Was kindled.— First through the hail of our artillery The agile Hydriote barks with press of sail Dashed:—ship to ship, cannon to cannon, man To man were grappled in the embrace of war, Inextricable but by death or victory. The tempest of the raging fight convulsed To its crystalline depths that stainless sea, And shook Heaven's roof of golden morning clouds, Poised on an hundred azure mountain-isles. In the brief trances of the artillery One cry from the destroyed and the destroyer Rose, and a cloud of desolation wrapped The unforeseen event, till the north wind Sprung from the sea, lifting the heavy veil Of battle-smoke—then victory—victory! For, as we thought, three frigates from Algiers Bore down from Naxos to our aid, but soon The abhorred cross glimmered behind, before, Among, around us; and that fatal sign Dried with its beams the strength in Moslem hearts, As the sun drinks the dew.—What more? We fled!— Our noonday path over the sanguine foam Was beaconed,—and the glare struck the sun pale,— By our consuming transports: the fierce light Made all the shadows of our sails blood-red, And every countenance blank. Some ships lay feeding The ravening fire, even to the water's level; Some were blown up; some, settling heavily, Sunk; and the shrieks of our companions died Upon the wind, that bore us fast and far, Even after they were dead. Nine thousand perished! We met the vultures legioned in the air Stemming the torrent of the tainted wind; They, screaming from their cloudy mountain-peaks, Stooped through the sulphurous battle-smoke and perched Each on the weltering carcase that we loved, Like its ill angel or its damned soul, Riding upon the bosom of the sea. We saw the dog-fish hastening to their feast. Joy waked the voiceless people of the sea, And ravening Famine left his ocean cave To dwell with War, with us, and with Despair. We met night three hours to the west of Patmos, And with night, tempest—
[ENTER A MESSENGER.]
MESSENGER: Your Sublime Highness, That Christian hound, the Muscovite Ambassador, Has left the city.—If the rebel fleet Had anchored in the port, had victory Crowned the Greek legions in the Hippodrome, Panic were tamer.—Obedience and Mutiny, Like giants in contention planet-struck, Stand gazing on each other.—There is peace In Stamboul.—
MAHMUD: Is the grave not calmer still? Its ruins shall be mine.
HASSAN: Fear not the Russian: The tiger leagues not with the stag at bay Against the hunter.—Cunning, base, and cruel, He crouches, watching till the spoil be won, And must be paid for his reserve in blood. After the war is fought, yield the sleek Russian That which thou canst not keep, his deserved portion Of blood, which shall not flow through streets and fields, Rivers and seas, like that which we may win, But stagnate in the veins of Christian slaves!
[ENTER SECOND MESSENGER.]
SECOND MESSENGER: Nauplia, Tripolizza, Mothon, Athens, Navarin, Artas, Monembasia, Corinth, and Thebes are carried by assault, And every Islamite who made his dogs Fat with the flesh of Galilean slaves Passed at the edge of the sword: the lust of blood, Which made our warriors drunk, is quenched in death; But like a fiery plague breaks out anew In deeds which make the Christian cause look pale In its own light. The garrison of Patras Has store but for ten days, nor is there hope But from the Briton: at once slave and tyrant, His wishes still are weaker than his fears, Or he would sell what faith may yet remain From the oaths broke in Genoa and in Norway; And if you buy him not, your treasury Is empty even of promises—his own coin. The freedman of a western poet-chief Holds Attica with seven thousand rebels, And has beat back the Pacha of Negropont: The aged Ali sits in Yanina A crownless metaphor of empire: His name, that shadow of his withered might, Holds our besieging army like a spell In prey to famine, pest, and mutiny; He, bastioned in his citadel, looks forth Joyless upon the sapphire lake that mirrors The ruins of the city where he reigned Childless and sceptreless. The Greek has reaped The costly harvest his own blood matured, Not the sower, Ali—who has bought a truce From Ypsilanti with ten camel-loads Of Indian gold.
[ENTER A THIRD MESSENGER.]
MAHMUD: What more?
THIRD MESSENGER: The Christian tribes Of Lebanon and the Syrian wilderness Are in revolt;—Damascus, Hems, Aleppo Tremble;—the Arab menaces Medina, The Aethiop has intrenched himself in Sennaar, And keeps the Egyptian rebel well employed, Who denies homage, claims investiture As price of tardy aid. Persia demands The cities on the Tigris, and the Georgians Refuse their living tribute. Crete and Cyprus, Like mountain-twins that from each other's veins Catch the volcano-fire and earthquake-spasm, Shake in the general fever. Through the city, Like birds before a storm, the Santons shriek, And prophesyings horrible and new Are heard among the crowd: that sea of men Sleeps on the wrecks it made, breathless and still. A Dervise, learned in the Koran, preaches That it is written how the sins of Islam Must raise up a destroyer even now. The Greeks expect a Saviour from the West, Who shall not come, men say, in clouds and glory, But in the omnipresence of that Spirit In which all live and are. Ominous signs Are blazoned broadly on the noonday sky: One saw a red cross stamped upon the sun; It has rained blood; and monstrous births declare The secret wrath of Nature and her Lord. The army encamped upon the Cydaris Was roused last night by the alarm of battle, And saw two hosts conflicting in the air, The shadows doubtless of the unborn time Cast on the mirror of the night. While yet The fight hung balanced, there arose a storm Which swept the phantoms from among the stars. At the third watch the Spirit of the Plague Was heard abroad flapping among the tents; Those who relieved watch found the sentinels dead. The last news from the camp is, that a thousand Have sickened, and—
[ENTER A FOURTH MESSENGER.]
MAHMUD: And thou, pale ghost, dim shadow Of some untimely rumour, speak!
FOURTH MESSENGER: One comes Fainting with toil, covered with foam and blood: He stood, he says, on Chelonites' Promontory, which o'erlooks the isles that groan Under the Briton's frown, and all their waters Then trembling in the splendour of the moon, When as the wandering clouds unveiled or hid Her boundless light, he saw two adverse fleets Stalk through the night in the horizon's glimmer, Mingling fierce thunders and sulphureous gleams, And smoke which strangled every infant wind That soothed the silver clouds through the deep air. At length the battle slept, but the Sirocco Awoke, and drove his flock of thunder-clouds Over the sea-horizon, blotting out All objects—save that in the faint moon-glimpse He saw, or dreamed he saw, the Turkish admiral And two the loftiest of our ships of war, With the bright image of that Queen of Heaven, Who hid, perhaps, her face for grief, reversed; And the abhorred cross—
[ENTER AN ATTENDANT.]
ATTENDANT: Your Sublime Highness, The Jew, who—
MAHMUD: Could not come more seasonably: Bid him attend. I'll hear no more! too long We gaze on danger through the mist of fear, And multiply upon our shattered hopes The images of ruin. Come what will! To-morrow and to-morrow are as lamps Set in our path to light us to the edge Through rough and smooth, nor can we suffer aught Which He inflicts not in whose hand we are.
SEMICHORUS 1: Would I were the winged cloud Of a tempest swift and loud! I would scorn The smile of morn And the wave where the moonrise is born! I would leave The spirits of eve A shroud for the corpse of the day to weave From other threads than mine! Bask in the deep blue noon divine. Who would? Not I.
SEMICHORUS 2: Whither to fly?
SEMICHORUS 1: Where the rocks that gird th' Aegean Echo to the battle paean Of the free— I would flee A tempestuous herald of victory! My golden rain For the Grecian slain Should mingle in tears with the bloody main, And my solemn thunder-knell Should ring to the world the passing-bell Of Tyranny!
SEMICHORUS 2: Ah king! wilt thou chain The rack and the rain? Wilt thou fetter the lightning and hurricane? The storms are free, But we—
CHORUS: O Slavery! thou frost of the world's prime, Killing its flowers and leaving its thorns bare! Thy touch has stamped these limbs with crime, These brows thy branding garland bear, But the free heart, the impassive soul Scorn thy control!
SEMICHORUS 1: Let there be light! said Liberty, And like sunrise from the sea, Athens arose!—Around her born, Shone like mountains in the morn Glorious states;—and are they now Ashes, wrecks, oblivion?
SEMICHORUS 2: Go, Where Thermae and Asopus swallowed Persia, as the sand does foam: Deluge upon deluge followed, Discord, Macedon, and Rome: And lastly thou!
SEMICHORUS 1: Temples and towers, Citadels and marts, and they Who live and die there, have been ours, And may be thine, and must decay; But Greece and her foundations are Built below the tide of war, Based on the crystalline sea Of thought and its eternity; Her citizens, imperial spirits, Rule the present from the past, On all this world of men inherits Their seal is set.
SEMICHORUS 2: Hear ye the blast, Whose Orphic thunder thrilling calls From ruin her Titanian walls? Whose spirit shakes the sapless bones Of Slavery? Argos, Corinth, Crete Hear, and from their mountain thrones The daemons and the nymphs repeat The harmony.
SEMICHORUS 1: I hear! I hear!
SEMICHORUS 2: The world's eyeless charioteer, Destiny, is hurrying by! What faith is crushed, what empire bleeds Beneath her earthquake-footed steeds? What eagle-winged victory sits At her right hand? what shadow flits Before? what splendour rolls behind? Ruin and renovation cry 'Who but We?'
SEMICHORUS 1: I hear! I hear! The hiss as of a rushing wind, The roar as of an ocean foaming, The thunder as of earthquake coming. I hear! I hear! The crash as of an empire falling, The shrieks as of a people calling 'Mercy! mercy!'—How they thrill! Then a shout of 'kill! kill! kill!' And then a small still voice, thus—
SEMICHORUS 2: For Revenge and Wrong bring forth their kind, The foul cubs like their parents are, Their den is in the guilty mind, And Conscience feeds them with despair.
SEMICHORUS 1: In sacred Athens, near the fane Of Wisdom, Pity's altar stood: Serve not the unknown God in vain. But pay that broken shrine again, Love for hate and tears for blood.
[ENTER MAHMUD AND AHASUERUS.]
MAHMUD: Thou art a man, thou sayest, even as we.
AHASUERUS: No more!
MAHMUD: But raised above thy fellow-men By thought, as I by power.
AHASUERUS: Thou sayest so.
MAHMUD: Thou art an adept in the difficult lore Of Greek and Frank philosophy; thou numberest The flowers, and thou measurest the stars; Thou severest element from element; Thy spirit is present in the Past, and sees The birth of this old world through all its cycles Of desolation and of loveliness, And when man was not, and how man became The monarch and the slave of this low sphere, And all its narrow circles—it is much— I honour thee, and would be what thou art Were I not what I am; but the unborn hour, Cradled in fear and hope, conflicting storms, Who shall unveil? Nor thou, nor I, nor any Mighty or wise. I apprehended not What thou hast taught me, but I now perceive That thou art no interpreter of dreams; Thou dost not own that art, device, or God, Can make the Future present—let it come! Moreover thou disdainest us and ours; Thou art as God, whom thou contemplatest.
AHASUERUS: Disdain thee?—not the worm beneath thy feet! The Fathomless has care for meaner things Than thou canst dream, and has made pride for those Who would be what they may not, or would seem That which they are not. Sultan! talk no more Of thee and me, the Future and the Past; But look on that which cannot change—the One, The unborn and the undying. Earth and ocean, Space, and the isles of life or light that gem The sapphire floods of interstellar air, This firmament pavilioned upon chaos, With all its cressets of immortal fire, Whose outwall, bastioned impregnably Against the escape of boldest thoughts, repels them As Calpe the Atlantic clouds—this Whole Of suns, and worlds, and men, and beasts, and flowers, With all the silent or tempestuous workings By which they have been, are, or cease to be, Is but a vision;—all that it inherits Are motes of a sick eye, bubbles and dreams; Thought is its cradle and its grave, nor less The Future and the Past are idle shadows Of thought's eternal flight—they have no being: Nought is but that which feels itself to be.
MAHMUD: What meanest thou? Thy words stream like a tempest Of dazzling mist within my brain—they shake The earth on which I stand, and hang like night On Heaven above me. What can they avail? They cast on all things surest, brightest, best, Doubt, insecurity, astonishment.
AHASUERUS: Mistake me not! All is contained in each. Dodona's forest to an acorn's cup Is that which has been, or will be, to that Which is—the absent to the present. Thought Alone, and its quick elements, Will, Passion, Reason, Imagination, cannot die; They are, what that which they regard appears, The stuff whence mutability can weave All that it hath dominion o'er, worlds, worms, Empires, and superstitions. What has thought To do with time, or place, or circumstance? Wouldst thou behold the Future?—ask and have! Knock and it shall be opened—look, and lo! The coming age is shadowed on the Past As on a glass.
MAHMUD: Wild, wilder thoughts convulse My spirit—Did not Mahomet the Second Win Stamboul?
AHASUERUS: Thou wouldst ask that giant spirit The written fortunes of thy house and faith. Thou wouldst cite one out of the grave to tell How what was born in blood must die.
MAHMUD: Thy words Have power on me! I see—
AHASUERUS: What hearest thou?
MAHMUD: A far whisper— Terrible silence.
AHASUERUS: What succeeds?
MAHMUD: The sound As of the assault of an imperial city, The hiss of inextinguishable fire, The roar of giant cannon; the earthquaking Fall of vast bastions and precipitous towers, The shock of crags shot from strange enginery, The clash of wheels, and clang of armed hoofs, And crash of brazen mail as of the wreck Of adamantine mountains—the mad blast Of trumpets, and the neigh of raging steeds, The shrieks of women whose thrill jars the blood, And one sweet laugh, most horrible to hear, As of a joyous infant waked and playing With its dead mother's breast, and now more loud The mingled battle-cry,—ha! hear I not 'En touto nike!' 'Allah-illa-Allah!'?
AHASUERUS: The sulphurous mist is raised—thou seest—
MAHMUD: A chasm, As of two mountains in the wall of Stamboul; And in that ghastly breach the Islamites, Like giants on the ruins of a world, Stand in the light of sunrise. In the dust Glimmers a kingless diadem, and one Of regal port has cast himself beneath The stream of war. Another proudly clad In golden arms spurs a Tartarian barb Into the gap, and with his iron mace Directs the torrent of that tide of men, And seems—he is—Mahomet!
AHASUERUS: What thou seest Is but the ghost of thy forgotten dream. A dream itself, yet less, perhaps, than that Thou call'st reality. Thou mayst behold How cities, on which Empire sleeps enthroned, Bow their towered crests to mutability. Poised by the flood, e'en on the height thou holdest, Thou mayst now learn how the full tide of power Ebbs to its depths.—Inheritor of glory, Conceived in darkness, born in blood, and nourished With tears and toil, thou seest the mortal throes Of that whose birth was but the same. The Past Now stands before thee like an Incarnation Of the To-come; yet wouldst thou commune with That portion of thyself which was ere thou Didst start for this brief race whose crown is death, Dissolve with that strong faith and fervent passion Which called it from the uncreated deep, Yon cloud of war, with its tempestuous phantoms Of raging death; and draw with mighty will The imperial shade hither.
[THE PHANTOM OF MAHOMET THE SECOND APPEARS.]
PHANTOM: I come Thence whither thou must go! The grave is fitter To take the living than give up the dead; Yet has thy faith prevailed, and I am here. The heavy fragments of the power which fell When I arose, like shapeless crags and clouds, Hang round my throne on the abyss, and voices Of strange lament soothe my supreme repose, Wailing for glory never to return.— A later Empire nods in its decay: The autumn of a greener faith is come, And wolfish change, like winter, howls to strip The foliage in which Fame, the eagle, built Her aerie, while Dominion whelped below. The storm is in its branches, and the frost Is on its leaves, and the blank deep expects Oblivion on oblivion, spoil on spoil, Ruin on ruin:—Thou art slow, my son; The Anarchs of the world of darkness keep A throne for thee, round which thine empire lies Boundless and mute; and for thy subjects thou, Like us, shalt rule the ghosts of murdered life, The phantoms of the powers who rule thee now— Mutinous passions, and conflicting fears, And hopes that sate themselves on dust, and die!— Stripped of their mortal strength, as thou of thine. Islam must fall, but we will reign together Over its ruins in the world of death:— And if the trunk be dry, yet shall the seed Unfold itself even in the shape of that Which gathers birth in its decay. Woe! woe! To the weak people tangled in the grasp Of its last spasms.
MAHMUD: Spirit, woe to all! Woe to the wronged and the avenger! Woe To the destroyer, woe to the destroyed! Woe to the dupe, and woe to the deceiver! Woe to the oppressed, and woe to the oppressor! Woe both to those that suffer and inflict; Those who are born and those who die! but say, Imperial shadow of the thing I am, When, how, by whom, Destruction must accomplish Her consummation!
PHANTOM: Ask the cold pale Hour, Rich in reversion of impending death, When HE shall fall upon whose ripe gray hairs Sit Care, and Sorrow, and Infirmity— The weight which Crime, whose wings are plumed with years, Leaves in his flight from ravaged heart to heart Over the heads of men, under which burthen They bow themselves unto the grave: fond wretch! He leans upon his crutch, and talks of years To come, and how in hours of youth renewed He will renew lost joys, and—
VOICE WITHOUT: Victory! Victory!
[THE PHANTOM VANISHES.]
MAHMUD: What sound of the importunate earth has broken My mighty trance?
VOICE WITHOUT: Victory! Victory!
MAHMUD: Weak lightning before darkness! poor faint smile Of dying Islam! Voice which art the response Of hollow weakness! Do I wake and live? Were there such things, or may the unquiet brain, Vexed by the wise mad talk of the old Jew, Have shaped itself these shadows of its fear? It matters not!—for nought we see or dream, Possess, or lose, or grasp at, can be worth More than it gives or teaches. Come what may, The Future must become the Past, and I As they were to whom once this present hour, This gloomy crag of time to which I cling, Seemed an Elysian isle of peace and joy Never to be attained.—I must rebuke This drunkenness of triumph ere it die, And dying, bring despair. Victory! poor slaves!
VOICE WITHOUT: Shout in the jubilee of death! The Greeks Are as a brood of lions in the net Round which the kingly hunters of the earth Stand smiling. Anarchs, ye whose daily food Are curses, groans, and gold, the fruit of death, From Thule to the girdle of the world, Come, feast! the board groans with the flesh of men; The cup is foaming with a nation's blood, Famine and Thirst await! eat, drink, and die!
SEMICHORUS 1: Victorious Wrong, with vulture scream, Salutes the rising sun, pursues the flying day! I saw her, ghastly as a tyrant's dream, Perch on the trembling pyramid of night, Beneath which earth and all her realms pavilioned lay In visions of the dawning undelight. Who shall impede her flight? Who rob her of her prey?
VOICE WITHOUT: Victory! Victory! Russia's famished eagles Dare not to prey beneath the crescent's light. Impale the remnant of the Greeks! despoil! Violate! make their flesh cheaper than dust!
SEMICHORUS 2: Thou voice which art The herald of the ill in splendour hid! Thou echo of the hollow heart Of monarchy, bear me to thine abode When desolation flashes o'er a world destroyed: Oh, bear me to those isles of jagged cloud Which float like mountains on the earthquake, mid The momentary oceans of the lightning, Or to some toppling promontory proud Of solid tempest whose black pyramid, Riven, overhangs the founts intensely bright'ning Of those dawn-tinted deluges of fire Before their waves expire, When heaven and earth are light, and only light In the thunder-night!
VOICE WITHOUT: Victory! Victory! Austria, Russia, England, And that tame serpent, that poor shadow, France, Cry peace, and that means death when monarchs speak. Ho, there! bring torches, sharpen those red stakes, These chains are light, fitter for slaves and poisoners Than Greeks. Kill! plunder! burn! let none remain.
SEMICHORUS 1: Alas! for Liberty! If numbers, wealth, or unfulfilling years, Or fate, can quell the free! Alas! for Virtue, when Torments, or contumely, or the sneers Of erring judging men Can break the heart where it abides. Alas! if Love, whose smile makes this obscure world splendid, Can change with its false times and tides, Like hope and terror,— Alas for Love! And Truth, who wanderest lone and unbefriended, If thou canst veil thy lie-consuming mirror Before the dazzled eyes of Error, Alas for thee! Image of the Above.
SEMICHORUS 2: Repulse, with plumes from conquest torn, Led the ten thousand from the limits of the morn Through many an hostile Anarchy! At length they wept aloud, and cried, 'The Sea! the Sea!' Through exile, persecution, and despair, Rome was, and young Atlantis shall become The wonder, or the terror, or the tomb Of all whose step wakes Power lulled in her savage lair: But Greece was as a hermit-child, Whose fairest thoughts and limbs were built To woman's growth, by dreams so mild, She knew not pain or guilt; And now, O Victory, blush! and Empire, tremble When ye desert the free— If Greece must be A wreck, yet shall its fragments reassemble, And build themselves again impregnably In a diviner clime, To Amphionic music on some Cape sublime, Which frowns above the idle foam of Time.
SEMICHORUS 1: Let the tyrants rule the desert they have made; Let the free possess the Paradise they claim; Be the fortune of our fierce oppressors weighed With our ruin, our resistance, and our name!
SEMICHORUS 2: Our dead shall be the seed of their decay, Our survivors be the shadow of their pride, Our adversity a dream to pass away— Their dishonour a remembrance to abide!
VOICE WITHOUT: Victory! Victory! The bought Briton sends The keys of ocean to the Islamite.— Now shall the blazon of the cross be veiled, And British skill directing Othman might, Thunder-strike rebel victory. Oh, keep holy This jubilee of unrevenged blood! Kill! crush! despoil! Let not a Greek escape!
SEMICHORUS 1: Darkness has dawned in the East On the noon of time: The death-birds descend to their feast From the hungry clime. Let Freedom and Peace flee far To a sunnier strand, And follow Love's folding-star To the Evening land!
SEMICHORUS 2: The young moon has fed Her exhausted horn With the sunset's fire: The weak day is dead, But the night is not born; And, like loveliness panting with wild desire While it trembles with fear and delight, Hesperus flies from awakening night, And pants in its beauty and speed with light Fast-flashing, soft, and bright. Thou beacon of love! thou lamp of the free! Guide us far, far away, To climes where now veiled by the ardour of day Thou art hidden From waves on which weary Noon Faints in her summer swoon, Between kingless continents sinless as Eden, Around mountains and islands inviolably Pranked on the sapphire sea.
SEMICHORUS 1: Through the sunset of hope, Like the shapes of a dream. What Paradise islands of glory gleam! Beneath Heaven's cope, Their shadows more clear float by— The sound of their oceans, the light of their sky, The music and fragrance their solitudes breathe Burst, like morning on dream, or like Heaven on death, Through the walls of our prison; And Greece, which was dead, is arisen!
CHORUS: The world's great age begins anew, The golden years return, The earth doth like a snake renew Her winter weeds outworn: Heaven smiles, and faiths and empires gleam, Like wrecks of a dissolving dream.
A brighter Hellas rears its mountains From waves serener far; A new Peneus rolls his fountains Against the morning star. Where fairer Tempes bloom, there sleep Young Cyclads on a sunnier deep.
A loftier Argo cleaves the main, Fraught with a later prize; Another Orpheus sings again, And loves, and weeps, and dies. A new Ulysses leaves once more Calypso for his native shore.
Oh, write no more the tale of Troy, If earth Death's scroll must be! Nor mix with Laian rage the joy Which dawns upon the free: Although a subtler Sphinx renew Riddles of death Thebes never knew.
Another Athens shall arise, And to remoter time Bequeath, like sunset to the skies, The splendour of its prime; And leave, if nought so bright may live, All earth can take or Heaven can give.
Saturn and Love their long repose Shall burst, more bright and good Than all who fell, than One who rose, Than many unsubdued:  Not gold, not blood, their altar dowers, But votive tears and symbol flowers.
Oh, cease! must hate and death return? Cease! must men kill and die? Cease! drain not to its dregs the urn Of bitter prophecy. The world is weary of the past, Oh, might it die or rest at last!