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Anna Jane Vardill

Don Sebastian

The Third Legend of the Hermitage

Merrily, merrily urge the mule!
 Our long day’s toil is done—
The fire-flies dance o’er the waters cool,
And the walls where the rosy friars rule
 Look red in the setting sun.
Hast thou no carol, jocund guide,
 To cheat the toil-worn traveller’s way?
Such as at social even-tide
 Cheers mountain-feast or vintage gay?

“With oaten-reed or mandoline
I lov’d to loiter on the green,
 When first I rov’d o’er Seville’s land:
And many a lass with locks of jet
Has wav’d the chirping castanet,
 While Pedro tun’d the saraband.
But once o’er Sierra Ronda’s height
 I led a noble Matadore,
Who thrice in good King Carlos’ sight
 Had stretch’d the vanquish’d bull in gore.

His was a voice so rich and clear,
 When tales of love or war he sung,
It well the weary way might cheer,
Or tempt the lovely lady’s ear,
 Oft while the blithe guittar he strung,
The fawn his mellow trills to hear,
Would crouch amidst the thicket’s gloom,
Unstartled by his waving plume.
And thus in moonlight serenade
He sang, to soothe a dark-ey’d maid.

“Thy beaming eyes I never praise,
Nor on thy lip’s vermillion gaxe,
For in those eyes’ ethereal blue,
And in thy ripe lip’s honied dew
 Lurks too destructive danger:
’Tis not thy gentle smile I bless,
For he who would his soul possess
 Must be to thine a stranger:

But ’tis thy frown! when first I stray’d,
By hope’s elysian dreams betray’d,
Thy timely frown with bland controul
Oft to my tempest-troubled soul
 Has peace and safety given;
Then if thy frown from fatal flames
So soon the erring soul reclaims,
 Smile next, and promise heaven!”

* * *

Now tell me true, thou jocund Guide,
 Had that fair maiden smiles to give?
“She was a noble widow’d bride,
With all the wiles and all the pride
 That can in gentle beauty live;—
And he who lov’d her, lov’d in vain,
 Yet one, unthankful and unknown,
 Dwelt on her fancy’s secret throne,
And bound her in a joyless chain.
For once beneath the golden shade,
By citrons and pomegranates made,
Thus to her silver lute she sang,
While to the bow’r a list’ner sprang.

 “Thy gaze and thy approach I shun,
  Tho’ gladden’d in thy sight,
 As lilies shrink before the sun,
  Yet live upon his light.

 The nightingale in Sharon’s bow’r
  Is silent when he glows,
 Tho’ to his life-diffusing pow’r
  Her summer-reign she owes.

 The palm, Samaria’s purple pride,
  Unfolds its nectar’d fruit,
 But deep in darkness strives to hide
  The tendrils of its root:

 Thus maiden beauty shuns the gaze
  Which all her triumph brings;
 Thus Love its glowing tribute pays,
  But shews not whence it springs.”

* * *

Show me that bow’r, my jocund Guide,
 While the stars are bright and the moonbeams play!
Thy russet hood my brow shall hide,
 And thine shall be this palfrey gay!
“Down below yon rocky steep,
Where the orange blooms and the melons creep,
 Silent and soft, the waters blue
 Their mossy covert tinkle through,
And dropping on their marble bed,
Feed the lone elm that bends its head
 To drink their ever-falling dew:
Its tangled roots, all rude and bare,
Form for thy feet a lover’s stair
To reach the fair dame’s crystal door;
 There beneath the myrtles high,
 And the purple roses’ canopy,
Thou may’st thy tuneful love-tale pour,
But warily tread that path again,
Ere the laughing morn begins to reign.”

It is the hour when night is sweet!
 When moon-beams gild the bow’ry vale,
To light the smiling pilgrim’s feet,
 While doves and painted warblers hail
Hearts that with hope and rapture beat.
It is the hour!—and all is still,
Save, dimpling in its sleep, the rill
 Which spreads a tell-tale mirror near,
While the soft echoes of the hill
 The lady lifts her veil to hear.”—
Faintly her lips’ sweet breathings stir
That veil of woven gossamer,
Light as the filmy cloud which steals
Tints from the brightness it conceals.

There is no topaz in the mine
 Beneath Morena’s yellow rocks
 So shining as those burnish’d locks;
 There is no marble in the halls
 Within Alhambra’s royal walls
So spotless as that brow benign:
 Her lips might mock the scarlet gem
 In Abdoulrahman’s diadem;
 Or th’ tufts of coralline that curl
 Round rich Bassora’s purest pearl.

The moon is gone—the way is dark—
There is but the wandering fire-fly’s spark
 To guide the muffled listener on:
Yet he has climb’d the soundless gates—
Beneath their arch a taper waits—
 It moves—it rises, and is gone!
But there is a bold and faithful hand
Which beckons still with mute command.

“Come on!—the painted curtain lift,
And take this lute—a lover’s gift—
 Thou seest her lattic’d casement near:
And hark!—her magic hands begin
Speech from the living lyre to win—
 Haste!—and her lonely vigil cheer!”

“Stay yet, my true and joyous guide!
 If from this rosy bow’r I lead
The beauteous dame to be my bride,
  Yon sequins and this gem are thine;
 Now swiftly urge my gallant steed,
  And seek the priest of Jago’s shrine.
But knows they faithful heart on whom
 This golden moment’s treasures fall?
A soldier sunk in fortune’s gloom,
 An exile from his father’s hall!
For once in boyhood’s swollen pride
I shunn’d a rich and noble bride,
Whose beauty—but I durst not gaze
On loveliness I scorn’d to praise.”

 “Noble Sebastian, joy to thee!
  Thou with a lover’s eye hast seen
  Thy proffer’d bride, thy Imogen;
 Her faith is thine, thy love is free,
And thy father’s curse, thy father’s ire,
Shall on this blissful night expire!”

The Guide his russet cloak withdrew—
 It is the noble Matadore
Who thrice the wolves of Mercia slew,
 And steep’d the vanquish’d bull in gore!
“Sebastian, well thou know’st the day,
 When, by the timely jav’lin quell’d,
 Thy grasp the howling savage held,
While nerveless at his feet I lay;—
 Then by my rescued life I swore
 To urge my rival-love no more,
And serve thee with a Spaniard’s soul;
 For well I knew thy Imogen
 Had smiles thy rebel heart to win,
And melt thy pride to Love’s controul
 Not mine the form, nor mine the face,
 Which highborn Beauty deigns to grace;
 Yet once I woo’d her oft and long,
 With quaint device and midnight song;
 And in a gallant page’s garb
 Tam’d for her hand the snow-white barb:
 But quaint device and song were vain,
 The sunbeam of her smile to gain,
 Until thy well-won praise I sung,
 And told thy deeds with friendship’s tongue:
 Then I have seen the shading lawn
 Around her silver treillis drawn,
 Swell’d by a softer—kinder sigh:
 And when thy noble name I rais’d,
 On mine her kindling eye has gaz’d,
Bright as the flash of summer’s sky!
 Noble Sebastian, take thy prize!
 Love in a transient summer dies.
But Gratitude has life from heaven!
 And more than Beauty’s lap bestows,
 More than triumphant Pleasure knows,
Is to remembered Friendship given.
Love for himself his feast prepares,
But Friendship keeps the bliss it shares!”

* * *

 The feast in Seville’s bow’rs was gay
 On brave Sebastian’s bridal day;
 Yet seven time thrice the winter-rose
 Grow red where golden Tinto flows,
    Ere the noble Guide was seen again:
 Then resting in our lone abode,
 Scars on his wrinkled brow he show’d,
    And told of many a battle-plain;
 Oft when our ample bowls supplied
 The balm, old Xeres’ sparkling pride,
    He own’d a banish’d lover’s pain;
 But well we rosy Hermits know
How he heal’d his love and forgot his woe!

The European Magazine, Vol. 68, August 1815, pp. 157-159