Some books are to tasted; others to be swallowed; and some few to be chewed and digested. - Bacon
Meanwhile, his galant steed all lathered
Hastening to join his kin forgathered
To celebrate his wedding day
The bridegroom made his urgent way....
Good fortune yet attended him
To bright Aragva's verdant bank.
A line of camels after him
So weighted down with costly gifts
They scarce from hoof to hoof could shift
Wound down the pathway, rank on rank,
Now clear to view, now lost to sight,
Bells chiming softly as they plod.
Their master rode on in the van
To guide his laden caravan
That followed where his horse had trod....
Erect, the tithe waste girdled tight;
Sabre and dagger-hilts shine bright
Beneath the sun; and on his back
A gleaming rifle, notched in black.
The wind is fluttering the sleeve
Of his chukhd - all bravely braided
His saddle-cloth of richest weave,
The saddle with gay silks is broidered
The reigns are tasseled - and his steed
Is of a priceless, golden breed.
Nostrils dilated,twitching ears
He glances down and snorts his fears
Of the deep drop, the flying foam
That crests the rapids' leaping waves.
How perilous the path they follow,
The cliff o'erhangs the way so narrow,
The deep ravine the torrent paves.
The hour is late. - The sunset glow
Is fading on the peaks of snow.
The caravan makes haste for home.
But see - a chapel by the way....
Here now has rested many a day
Some prince, now canonized, but then
By vengeful hand untimely slain.-
And here the traveller must stay
Whether he haste to fight, or whether
To join the feast, here he must ever
Rein in his horse and humbly pray
The good saint to protect his life
Against the lurking Moslem's knife.
But now the bridegroom, overbold,
Forgot his forefathers of old
And, by perfidious dreams misled
Of how, beneath the cloak of night,
He would embrace his bride, instead
Of holding by their pious rite
He yielded to the Demon's will
Seduced by turbid thoughts - until
Two figures - then a shot - ahead
What was it? Rising in his stirrups
Cramming his high hat on his brow
The gallant lover, at the gallop,
Plunged like a hawk upon his foe!
No word he spoke, his whip cracked once
And once blazed forth his Turkish gun....
Another shot. Wild cries. The Prince
Goes thundering on. The groans behind
Long echoes in the valley find....
Not long the fight. Of timorous mind,
The Georgians turn and run!
Now all is silence; sadly huddled
The camels stand and stare befuddled
Upon their erstwhile master ä man,
Lying dead amongst these silent fells.
The only sound their harness bells,
Ravaged and robbed their caravan;
And see, the owl flies softly round
The Christian bodies on the ground!
No peaceful tomb beneath the stones
Of some old church will take these bones
Like those in which their fathers lie;
Mothers nor sisters will not come
In their long floating veils to cry
Over these graves so far from home!
Instead, by zealous hands, a cross
Was raised to mark the dreadful loss
Just where the road hugs close the sheer
And towering cliff-wall, close to where
They perished in the raid....
And ivy, growing lush in spring,
An emerald net about it flings....
Here, weary of the toilsome road,
The traveller yet lays down his load
To rest in God's good shade....
Swift as a stag still runs the horse
Snorting as though he held his course
In some fierce charge, now plunging on
Now pulling up as though to harken
His nostrils flared to sniff the wind:
Then leaps up and comes ringing down
On all four hooves, sets sparking
The stones and, in his mad career,
His tangled mane streams out behind.
A silent rider he does bear
Who lurches forward now and then
To rest his head in that wild mane.
The reins lie slack in useless hands,
The feet are deep-thrust in the stirrups,
And on his saddle-cloth the bands
Of blood are broadening as they gallop
Ah gallant steed, your wounded master
You bore from battle swift as light
The ill-starred bullet sped yet faster
And overtook him in the night!
Gudaal's is now a house of mourning,
The people crowd into the court:
Whose horse comes galloping in terror
To fall before the rock-hewn gate?
The lifeless rider, who is he?
The battle fury on his face
Has left a deep inscribed trace
On coat and weapons they could see
Fresh bloodstains, and a wiry strand
Of mane was twisted in his hand,
Not long you waited, youthful bride,
And looked to see your bridegroom come:
Alas, though he has gained your side
To join the feasting at your home
His princely word he keeps in vain...
Never will he mount horse again.
Like thunder, the Lord's judgement broke
About this unsuspecting house!
Tamara, sobbing on her couch,
Gives free rein to the heavy tears
Till, shaken, she on them must choke....
Then, suddenly, it seems she hears
Above her words of wonder spoke:
"Weep not, my child! Weep not in vain!
Those tears are no life-giving rain
To call an unresponsive corpse
Back to the living world again.
They only serve to dull their source
In those clear eyes, those cheeks to burn....
And he is far and will not learn
Of all your bitter sorrow now;
The winds of heaven now caress
His high, angelic brow;
And heavenly music, heavenly light....
What are the dreams and dark duress,
The little hopes and stifled sighs
Of earthly maidens in the sight
Of one who dwells in paradise?
Ah no, the lot of mortal man,
Believe, my earthly angel dear,
It merits not one second's span
Your precious sorrow here.
On the wastes of airy ocean
Rudderless and stripped of sail
Through the mists in listless motion
Stars in courses never fail;
Through the boundless fields of heaven
Traceless pass the fluffy sheep -
Clouds dissolving in the even
Reaches of the azure steppe.
Hour of parting, hour of meeting,
Brings them neither joy nor sorrow;
Nor regrets for past fast fleeting;
Nor desires for any morrow.
Let remembrance day be only
One long sorrow-laden day;
For the rest, be strong and lonely
Free of earthly cares as they!"
"As soon as night has spread her veil
To cover the Caucasian heights;
As soon as nature *neath the spell
Of magic words falls silent quite;
As soon as on the cliffs the wind
Runs rustling through the fading grass,
And the small bird that hides behind
The brittle blades flies up at last;
And, drinking in the evening dew
Beneath the vine-leaves in the gloom,
Night flowering blossoms come to bloom;
As soon as the great, golden moon
Above the mountain quietly peeps
To steal a stealthy glance at you;
I shall come flying to watch your sleep
And on your silken lashes lay
Enchanted dreams of golden day...."
And softly as a strange delusion
The voice fell silent, sound on sound.
The maid sprang up and gazed around,
An inexpressible confusion
Within her breast; - sorrow nor fear
Nor ecstasy could now compare
With this great upsurge of emotion.
The soul from its fast fetters broke
And burning fire coursed through her veins
It seemed as though the voice still spoke
Unknown and wonderful - and then
The sleep she craved came down to bless
Her weary eyes with heaviness;
But now he troubled even her thought
With dreams prophetic and unsought:
A stranger, mist-enshrouded, stood
Beside her bed and spoke no word
But, glimmering with unearthly beauty,
He looked at her with quiet devotion
And sadly, as it were in pity.
But this was not her guardian angel,
No visitant from realms divine:
About his head no radiant halo
Upon the shadowy curls did shine
Nor was it some tormented sprite
Some vicious spirit of hell - ah no!
Neither of darkness nor of light!...
More like the gentle afterglow
As evening deepens into night!...
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