The Bayadere. An Indian Tale (1)

THERE were seventy pillars around the hall,
Of wreathed gold was each capital,
And the roof was fretted with amber and gems,
Such as light kingly diadems;
The floor was marble, white as the snow
Ere its pureness is stained by its fall below:
In the midst played a fountain, whose starry showers
Fell like beams on the radiant flowers,
Whose colours were gleaming, as every one
Burnt with the kisses just caught from the sun;
And vases sent forth their silvery clouds,
Like those which the face of the young moon shrouds,
But sweet as the breath of the twilight hour
When the dew awakens the rose's power.
At the end of the hall was a sunbright throne,
Rich with every glorious stone;
And the purple canopy over head
Was like the shade o'er the day-fall shed;
And the couch beneath was of buds half blown,
Hued with the blooms of the rainbow's zone;
And round, like festoons, a vine was rolled,
Whose leaf was of emerald, whose fruit was of gold.
But, though graced as for a festival,
There was something sad in that stately hall:
There floated the breath of the harp and flute,--
But the sweetest of every music is mute;
There are flowers of light and spiced perfume,--
But there wants the sweetest of breath and of bloom:
And the hall is lone, and the hall is drear,
For the smiling of woman shineth not here.
With urns of odour o'er him weeping,
Upon the couch a youth is sleeping:
His radiant hair is bound with stars,
Such as shine on the brow of night,
Filling the dome with diamond rays,
Only than his own curls less bright.
And such a brow and such an eye
As fit a young divinity;
A brow like twilight's darkening line,
An eye like morning's first sunshine,
Now glancing thro' the veil of dreams
As sudden light at day-break streams,
And richer than the mingled shade
By gem, and gold, and purple made;
His orient wings closed o'er his head,
Like that bird's, bright with every dye,
Whose home, as Persian bards have said,
Is fixed in scented Araby.
Some dreams is passing o'er him now--
A sudden flush is on his brow;
And from his lip came murmur'd words,
Low, but sweet as the light lute chords
When o'er its strings the night winds glide
To woo the roses but its side.
He, the fair boy god, whose nest
Is in the water-lily's breast;
He of the many-arrowed bow,
Of the joys that come and go
Like the leaves, and of the sights
Like the winds of summer skies,
Blushes like the birds of spring,
Soon seen and soon vanishing;
He of hopes, and he of fears,
He of smiles, and he of tears--
Young CAMDEO, he has brought
A sweet dream of coloured thought,
One of love and woman's power,
To MANDALLA's sleeping hour.

Joyless and dark was his jewelled throne
When MANDALLA awakened and found him alone.
He drank the perfume that around him swept,
'Twas not sweet as the sigh he drank as he slept;
There was music, but where was the voice, at whose thrill
Every pulse in his veins was throbbing still?
Dim was the home at his native star
While the light of woman and love was afar;
And lips of the rosebud, and violet eyes
Are the sunniest flowers in Paradise.
He veiled the light of his glorious race
In a mortal's form and a mortal's face,
And 'mid earth's loveliest sought for one
Who might dwell in his hall and share in his throne.

The loorie brought to his cinnamon nest.
The bee from the midst of its honey guest,
And open the leaves of the lotus lay
To welcome the noon of the summer day.
It was glory and light and beauty all,
When MANDALLA closed his wing in Bengal;
He stood in the midst of a stately square,
As the waves of the sea rolled the thousands there;
Their gathering was sound the gorgeous car
Where sat in his triumph the Subadar,
For his sabre was red with the blood of the slain,
And his proudest foes were slaves in his chain;
And the sound of the trumpet, the sound of his name,
Rose in shouts from the crowd as onwards he came.
With gems and gold on each ataghan,
A thousand warriors led the van,
Mounted on steeds black as the night,
But with foam and with stirrup gleaming in light;
And another thousand came in their rear,
On white horses, armed with bow and spear,
With quivers of gold on each shoulder laid,
And with crimson belts for the crooked blade.
Then followed the foot ranks,--their turbans showed
Like flashes of light from a mountain cloud,
For white were the turbans as winter snow,
And death-black the foreheads that darkened below;
Scarlet and white was each soldier's vest,
And each bore a lion of gold on his breast,
For this was the chosen band that bore
The lion standard,--it floated o'er
Their ranks like morning; at every wave
Of that purple banner, the trumpets gave
A martial salute to the radiant fold
That bore the lion-king wrought in gold.
And last the elephant came, whose tower
Held the Lord of this pomp and power:
And round that chariot of his pride,
Like chains of white sea-pearls,
Of braids enwove of summer flowers,
Glided fair dancing girls;
And as the rose-leaves fall to earth,
Their light feet touched the ground,--
But for the zone of silver bells
You had not heard a sound,
As, scattering flowers o'er the way,
Danced round the beautiful array.
But there was one who 'mid them shone,
A planet lovely and alone,
A rose, one flower amid many,
But still the loveliest of any:
Though fair her arm as the moonlight,
Others might raise an arm as white;
Though light her feet as music's fall,
Others might be as musical:
But where were such dark eyes as hers?
So tender, yet withal so bright,
As the dark orbs had in their smile
Mingled the light of day and night.
And where was the wild grace which shed
A loveliness o'er every tread,
A beauty shining through the whole,
Something which spoke of heart and soul.
The Almas had pass'd lightly on,
The armed ranks, the crowd, were gone,
Yet gazed MANDALLA on the square
As she he sought still glided there,--
Oh that fond look, whose eyeballs’ strain,
And will not know its look is vain!
At length he turned,--his silent mood
Sought that impassioned solitude,
The Eden of young hearts, when first
Love in its loneliness is nurst.
He sat him by a little fount;
A tulip tree grew by its side,
A lily with its silver towers
Floated in silence on the tide;
And far round a banana tree
Extended its green sanctuary;
And the long grass, which was his seat,
With every movement grew more sweet,
Yielding a more voluptuous scent
At every blade his pressure bent.
And there he lingered, till the sky
Lost somewhat of its brilliancy,
And crimson shadows rolled on the west,
And raised the moon her diamond crest,
And came a freshness on the trees,
Harbinger of the evening breeze,
When a sweet far sound of song,
Borne by the breath of flowers along,
A mingling of the voice and lute,
Such as the wind-harp, when it makes
Its pleasant music to the gale
Which kisses first the chords it breaks.
He followed where the echo led,
Till in a cypress grove he found
A funeral train, that round a grave
Poured forth their sorrows' wailing sound;
And by the tomb a choir of girls,
With measured steps and mournful notes,
And snow-white robes, while on the air,
Unbound their wreaths, each dark curl floats,
Paced round and sang to her who slept
Calm, while their young eyes o'er her wept.
And she, that loveliest one, is here,
The morning's radiant Bayadere:
A darker light in her dark eyes,--
For tears are there,--a paler brow
Change but to charm the morning's smile,
Less sparkling, but more touching now.
And first her sweet lip prest the flute,
A nightingale waked by the rose,
And when that honey breath was mute,
Her low and plaintive song arose.
Wailing for the young blossom's fall,
The last, the most beloved of all.
As died in gushing tears the lay,
The band of mourners pass'd away:
They left their wreaths upon the tomb,
As fading leaves and long perfume
Were emblems of her; and unbound
Many a cage's gilded round
And set the prisoners free, as none
Were left to love now she was gone.
And azure wings spread on the air,
And songs, rejoicing songs were heard;
But, pining as forgotten now,
Lingered one solitary bird:
A beautiful and pearl-white dove,
Alone in its remembering love.
It was a strange and lovely thing
To mark the drooping of its wing,
And how into the grave it prest
Till soiled the dark earth-stain its breast;
And darker as the night-shades grew,
Sadder became its wailing coo,
As if it missed the hand that bore,
As the cool twilight came, its store
Of seeds and flowers.--There was one,
Who like that dove, was lingering lone,--
The Bayadere: her part had been
Only the hired mourner's part;
But she had given what none might buy,--
The precious sorrow of the heart.
She wooed the white dove to her breast,
It sought at once its place of rest:
Round it she threw her raven hair,
It seemed to love the gentle snare,
And its soft beak was raised to sip
The honey-dew of her red lip.
Her dark eyes filled with tears, to feel
The gentle creature closer steal
Into her heart with soft caress,
As it would thank her tenderness;
To her 't was strange and sweet to be
Beloved in such fond purity,
And sighed MANDALLA to think that sin
Could dwell so fair a shrine within.
"Oh grief to think that she was one
"Who like the breeze was wooed and won:
"Yet sure it were a task for love
"To come like dew of the night from above
"Upon her heart, and wash away,
"Like dust from the flowers, its stain of clay,
"And win her back in her tears to heaven,
"Pure, loved, and humble, and forgiven;
"Yes! freed from the soil of her earthly thrall,
"Her smile shall light up my starry hall!"
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Letitia Elizabeth Landon

Letitia Elizabeth Landon was an English poet. Born 14th August 1802 at 25 Hans Place, Chelsea, she lived through the most productive period of her life nearby, at No.22. A precocious child with a natural gift for poetry, she was driven by the financial needs of her family to become a professional writer and thus a target for malicious gossip (although her three children by William Jerdan were successfully hidden from the public). In 1838, she married George Maclean, governor of Cape Coast Castle on the Gold Coast, whence she travelled, only to die a few months later (15th October) of a fatal heart condition. Behind her post-Romantic style of sentimentality lie preoccupations with art, decay and loss that give her poetry its characteristic intensity and in this vein she attempted to reinterpret some of the great male texts from a woman’s perspective. Her originality rapidly led to her being one of the most read authors of her day and her influence, commencing with Tennyson in England and Poe in America, was long-lasting. However, Victorian attitudes led to her poetry being misrepresented and she became excluded from the canon of English literature, where she belongs. more…

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"The Bayadere. An Indian Tale (1)" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2019. Web. 20 Nov. 2019. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/44790/the-bayadere.-an-indian-tale-(1)>.

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