Verse > William Wordsworth > Complete Poetical Works



              YOU have heard "a Spanish Lady
                How she wooed an English man;"
              Hear now of a fair Armenian,
                Daughter of the proud Soldan;
          How she loved a Christian slave, and told her pain
          By word, look, deed, with hope that he might love again.


              "Pluck that rose, it moves my liking,"
                Said she, lifting up her veil;
              "Pluck it for me, gentle gardener,
                Ere it wither and grow pale."
          "Princess fair, I till the ground, but may not take
          From twig or bed an humbler flower, even for your sake!"


              "Grieved am I, submissive Christian!
                To behold thy captive state;
              Women, in your land, may pity
                (May they not?) the unfortunate."
          "Yes, kind Lady! otherwise man could not bear
          Life, which to every one that breathes is full of care."


              "Worse than idle is compassion
                If it end in tears and sighs;
              Thee from bondage would I rescue
                And from vile indignities;
          Nurtured, as thy mien bespeaks, in high degree,
          Look up--and help a hand that longs to set thee free."


              "Lady! dread the wish, nor venture
                In such peril to engage;
              Think how it would stir against you
                Your most loving father's rage:
          Sad deliverance would it be, and yoked with shame,
          Should troubles overflow on her from whom it came."


              "Generous Frank! the just in effort
                Are of inward peace secure:
              Hardships for the brave encountered,
                Even the feeblest may endure:
          If almighty grace through me thy chains unbind
          My father for slave's work may seek a slave in mind."


              "Princess, at this burst of goodness,
                My long-frozen heart grows warm!"
              "Yet you make all courage fruitless,
                Me to save from chance of harm:
          Leading such companion I that gilded dome,
          Yon minarets, would gladly leave for his worst home."


              "Feeling tunes your voice, fair Princess,
                And your brow is free from scorn,
              Else these words would come like mockery,
                Sharper than the pointed thorn."
          "Whence the undeserved mistrust? Too wide apart
          Our faith hath been,--O would that eyes could see the heart!"


              "Tempt me not, I pray; my doom is
                These base implements to wield;
              Rusty lance, I ne'er shall grasp thee,
                Ne'er assoil my cobwebbed shield!
          Never see my native land, nor castle towers,
          Nor Her who thinking of me there counts widowed hours."


              "Prisoner! pardon youthful fancies;
                Wedded? If you 'can', say no!
              Blessed is and be your consort;
                Hopes I cherished--let them go!
          Handmaid's privilege would leave my purpose free,
          Without another link to my felicity."


              "Wedded love with loyal Christians,
                Lady, is a mystery rare;
              Body, heart, and soul in union,
                Make one being of a pair."
          "Humble love in me would look for no return,
          Soft as a guiding star that cheers, but cannot burn."


              "Gracious Allah! by such title
                Do I dare to thank the God,
              Him who thus exalts thy spirit,
                Flower of an unchristian sod!
          Or hast thou put off wings which thou in heaven dost wear?
          What have I seen, and heard, or dreamt? where am I? where?"


              Here broke off the dangerous converse:
                Less impassioned words might tell
              How the pair escaped together,
                Tears not wanting, nor a knell
          Of sorrow in her heart while through her father's door,
          And from her narrow world, she passed for evermore.


              But affections higher, holier,
                Urged her steps; she shrunk from trust
              In a sensual creed that trampled
                Woman's birthright into dust.
          Little be the wonder then, the blame be none,
          If she, a timid Maid, hath put such boldness on.


              Judge both Fugitives with knowledge:
                In those old romantic days
              Mighty were the soul's commandments
                To support, restrain, or raise.
          Foes might hang upon their path, snakes rustle near,
          But nothing from their inward selves had they to fear.


              Thought infirm ne'er came between them,
                Whether printing desert sands
              With accordant steps, or gathering
                Forest-fruit with social hands;
          Or whispering like two reeds that in the cold moonbeam
          Bend with the breeze their heads, beside a crystal stream.


              On a friendly deck reposing
                They at length for Venice steer;
              There, when they had closed their voyage
                One, who daily on the pier
          Watched for tidings from the East, beheld his Lord,
          Fell down and clasped his knees for joy, not uttering word.


              Mutual was the sudden transport;
                Breathless questions followed fast,
              Years contracting to a moment,
                Each word greedier than the last:
          "Hie thee to the Countess, friend! return with speed,
          And of this Stranger speak by whom her lord was freed.


              Say that I, who might have languished,
                Drooped and pined till life was spent,
              Now before the gates of Stolberg
                My Deliverer would present
          For a crowning recompence, the precious grace
          Of her who in my heart still holds her ancient place.


              Make it known that my Companion
                Is of royal eastern blood,
              Thirsting after all perfection,
                Innocent, and meek, and good,
          Though with misbelievers bred; but that dark night
          Will holy Church disperse by means of gospel-light."


              Swiftly went that grey-haired Servant,
                Soon returned a trusty Page
              Charged with greetings, benedictions,
                Thanks and praises, each a gage
          For a sunny thought to cheer the Stranger's way,
          Her virtuous scruples to remove, her fears allay.


              And how blest the Reunited,
                While beneath their castle-walls,
              Runs a deafening noise of welcome!--
                Blest, though every tear that falls
          Doth in its silence of past sorrow tell,
          And makes a meeting seem most like a dear farewell.


              Through a haze of human nature,
                Glorified by heavenly light,
              Looked the beautiful Deliverer
                On that overpowering sight,
          While across her virgin cheek pure blushes strayed,
          For every tender sacrifice her heart had made.


              On the ground the weeping Countess
                Knelt, and kissed the Stranger's hand;
              Act of soul-devoted homage,
                Pledge of an eternal band:
          Nor did aught of future days that kiss belie,
          Which, with a generous shout, the crowd did ratify.


              Constant to the fair Armenian,
                Gentle pleasures round her moved,
              Like a tutelary spirit
                Reverenced, like a sister, loved,
          Christian meekness smoothed for all the path of life,
          Who, loving most, should wiseliest love, their only strife.


              Mute memento of that union
                In a Saxon church survives,
              Where a cross-legged Knight lies sculptured
                As between two wedded wives--
          Figures with armorial signs of race and birth,
          And the vain rank the pilgrims bore while yet on earth.




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