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426 southEY's RodeRICK — JULIAN
Roderick bears a solemn part in the lofty ceremonies of this important day; and, with a calm and resolute heart, beholds the allegiance of his subjects transferred to his heroic kinsman. The Nineteenth Book is occupied with an interview between Roderick and his mother, who has at last recognised him; and even while she approves of his penitential abandonment of the world, tempts him with bewitching visions of recovered fame and glory, and of atonement made to Florinda, by placing her in the rank of his queen. He continues firm, however, in his lofty purpose, and the pious Princess soon acquiesces in those pious resolutions; and, engaging to keep his secret, gives him her blessing, and retires. The Twentieth Book conducts us to the Moorish camp and the presence of Count Julian. Orpas, a baser apostate, claims the promised hand of Florinda; and Julian appeals to the Moorish Prince, whether the law of Mahomet admits of a forced marriage. The Prince attests that it does not; and then Julian, who has just learned that his daughter was in the approaching host of Pelayo, obtains leave to despatch a messenger to invite her to his arms. The Twenty-first Book contains the meeting of Julian with his daughter and Roderick; under whose protection she comes at evening to the Moorish camp, and finds her father at his ablutions at the door of his tent, by the side of a clear mountain spring. On her approach, he clasps her in his arms with overflowing love.
“‘Thou hast not then forsaken me, my child.
Howe'er the inexorable will of Fate
May in the world which is to come divide
Our everlasting destinies, in this
Thou wilt not, O my child, abandon me!'
And then with deep and interrupted voice,
Nor seeking to restrain his copious tears,
‘My blessing be upon thy head ' he cried,
A father's blessing ! though all faiths were false,
It should not lose its worth !' . . . She lock'd her hands
Around his neck, and gazing in his face
Through streaming tears, exclaim’d, “Oh never more,
Here or hereafter, never let us part "- p. 25s.
AND HIS CHILD — POETRY. 427
He is at first offended with the attendance and priestly habit of Roderick, and breaks out into some infidel taunts upon creeds and churchmen; but is forced at length to honour the firmness, the humility, and candour of this devoted Christian. He poses him,
however, in the course of their discussion, by rather an unlucky question.
“‘Thou preachest that all sins may be effac'd:
Is there forgiveness, Christian, in thy creed
For Rod'rick's crime?' . . ‘For Rod'rick, and for thee,
Count Julian!" said the Goth; and as he spake
Trembled through every fibre of his frame,
‘The gate of Heaven is open l' Julian threw
His wrathful hand aloft, and cried, “Away!
Earth could not hold us both ; nor can one Heaven
Contain my deadliest enemy and me!'"—p. 269.
This ethical dialogue is full of lofty sentiment and strong images; but is, on the whole, rather tedious and heavy. One of the newest pictures is the following; and
the sweetest scene, perhaps, that which closes the book immediately after:
“‘Methinks if ye would know
How visitations of calamity
Affect the pious soul, 'tis shown ye there !
Look yonder at that cloud, which through the sky
Sailing alone, doth cross in her career
The rolling moon! I watch'd it as it came,
And deem'd the deep opaque would blot her beams;
But, melting like a wreath of snow, it hangs
In folds of wavy silver round, and clothes
The orb with richer beauties than her own,
Then passing, leaves her in her light serene."—
“Thus having said, the pious suff'rer sate,
Beholding with fix'd eyes that lovely orb,
Which through the azure depth alone pursues
Her course appointed; with indiff'rent beams
Shining upon the silent hills around,
And the dark tents of that unholy host,
Who, all unconscious of impending fate,
Take their last slumber there. The camp is still
The fires have moulder'd ; and the breeze which stirs
The soft and snowy embers, just lays bare
At times a red and evanescent light,
Or for a moment wakes a feeble flame.
They by the fountain hear the stream below,
428 CARN AGE IN A DEFILE OF COVADONGA.
Whose murmurs, as the wind arose or fell,
Fuller or fainter reach the ear attun'd.
And now the nightingale, not distant far,
Began her solitary song; and pour'd
To the cold moon a richer, stronger strain
Than that with which the lyric lark salutes
The new-born day. Her deep and thrilling song
Seem'd with its piercing melody to reach
The soul; and in mysterious unison
Blend with all thoughts of gentleness and love.
Their hearts were open to the healing power
Of nature; and the splendour of the night,
The flow of waters, and that sweetest lay
Came to them like a copious evening dew,
Falling on vermal herbs which thirst for rain.”—p. 274–276.
The Twenty-second Book is fuller of business than of poetry. The vindictive Orpas persuades the Moorish leader, that Julian meditates a defection from his cause; and, by working on his suspicious spirit, obtains his consent to his assassination on the first convenient opportunity.
The Twenty-third Book recounts the carnage and overthrow of the Moors in the Straits of Covadonga. Deceived by false intelligence, and drunk with deceitful hope, they advance up the long and precipitous defile, along the cliffs and ridges of which Pelayo had not only stationed his men in ambush, but had piled huge stones and trunks of trees, ready to be pushed over upon the ranks of the enemy in the lower pass. A soft summer mist hanging upon the side of the cliffs helps to conceal these preparations; and the whole line of the Infidel is irretrievably engaged in the gulf, when Adosinda appears on a rock in the van, and, with her proud defiance, gives the word, which is the signal for the assault. The whole description is, as usual, a little overworked, but is unquestionably striking and impressive.
— “As the Moors
Advanc'd, the Chieftain in the van was seen,
Known by his arms, and from the crag a voice
Pronounc'd his name, . . . “Alcahman, hoa! look up !
Alcahman '" As the floating mist drew up
It had divided there, and open'd round
The Cross; part clinging to the rock beneath,
Hov'ring and waving; part in fleecy folds,
A canopy of silver, light condens'd
To shape and substance. In the midst there stood
A female form, one hand upon the Cross,
The other rais'd in menacing act. Below
Loose flow'd her raiment, but her breast was arm’d,
And helmeted her head. The Moor turn'd pale,
For on the walls of Auria he had seen
That well-known figure, and had well believ'd
She rested with the dead. “What, hoa l' she cried,
“Alcahman In the name of all who fell
At Auria in the massacre, this hour
I summon thee before the throne of God,
To answer for the innocent blood | This hour !
Moor, Miscreant, Murderer, Child of Hell! this hour
I summon thee to judgment. . . . In the name
Of God! for Spain and Vengeance.’
From voice to voice on either side it past
With rapid repetition, ... “In the name
Of God! for Spain and Wengeance!' and forthwith
On either side, along the whole defile,
The Asturians shouting, in the name of God,
Set the whole ruin loose; huge trunks and stones,
And loosend crags Down, down they roll'd with rush,
And bound, and thund'ring force. Such was the fall
As when some city by the labouring earth
Heav'd from its strong foundations is cast down,
And all its dwellings, towers, and palaces,
In one wide desolation prostrated.
From end to end of that long strait, the crash
Was heard continuous, and commixt with sounds
More dreadful, shrieks of horror and despair,
And death, ... the wild and agonising cry
Of that whole host, in one destruction whelm'd.”— p. 298, 299.
The Twenty-fourth Book is full of tragical matter, and is perhaps the most interesting of the whole piece. A Moor, on the instigation of Orpas and Abulcacem, pierces Julian with a mortal wound; who thereupon exhorts his captains, already disgusted with the jealous tyranny of the Infidel, to rejoin the standard and the faith of their country; and then requests to be borne into a neighbouring church, where Florinda has been praying for his conversion. — “They rais'd him from the earth; He, knitting as they lifted him his brow, Drew in through open lips and teeth firm-clos'd
His painful breath, and on his lance laid hand,
Lest its long shaft should shake the mortal wound.
430 southEY's RoDERICK–DEATH OF JULIAN.
Gently his men with slow and steady step
Their suff'ring burthen bore; and in the Church,
Before the altar, laid him down, his head
Upon Florinda's knees.”—p. 307, 308.
He then, on the solemn adjuration of Roderick, renounces the bloody faith to which he had so long adhered; and reverently receives at his hand the sacrament of reconciliation and peace. There is great feeling and energy we think in what follows:—
- “That dread office done,
Count Julian with amazement saw the Priest
Kneel down before him. ‘By the sacrament,
Which we have here partaken l' Roderick cried,
“In this most awful moment. By that hope, . .
That holy faith which comforts thee in death,
Grant thy forgiveness, Julian, ere thou diest!
Behold the man who most hath injur'd thee!
Roderick the wretched Goth, the guilty cause
Of all thy guilt, ... the unworthy instrument
Of thy redemption, ... kneels before thee here,
And prays to be forgiven l'
* Roderick ' ' exclaim'd
The dying Count, ... “Roderick' ... and from the floor,
With violent effort, half he rais'd himself;
The spear hung heavy in his side; and pain
And weakness overcame him, that he fell
Back on his daughter's lap. ‘O Death, cried he, . .
Passing his hand across his cold damp brow, ..
‘Thou tamest the strong limb, and conquerest
The stubborn heart! But yesterday I said
One Heaven could not contain mine enemy
And me; and now I lift my dying voice
To say, Forgive me, Lord! as I forgive
Him who hath done the wrong!'... He clos'd his eyes
A moment; then with sudden impulse cried, ..
‘Rodrick, thy wife is dead!—the Church hath power
To free thee from thy vows! The broken heart
Might yet be heal’d, the wrong redress'd, the throne
Rebuilt by that same hand which pull'd it down
And these curst Africans ... Oh for a month
Of that waste life which millions misbestow ! ... '"—p. 311, 313.
Returning weakness then admonishes him, however, of the near approach of death; and he begs the friendly hand of Roderick to cut short his pangs, by drawing
forth the weapon which clogs the wound in his side.
He then gives him his hand in kindness — blesses and