Bramin – Canto II


THE BRAMIN.

IN TWO CANTOS.

CANTO II.

EVENING.


NOW evening rose, in melting robes arrayed,

Of sweetly intermingled light and shade;

Fantastic breezes sported in her train,

And winnowed fragrance thro’ the wide cham-

paign:

Then on the mountain’s flowery brow reclined,

Whence the bold eye might wander unconfined

O’er all the charms of nature, glowing round,

The blushing hemisphere, the smiling ground,

The flaunted clouds in radiant colours drest,

And the broad sun, declining in the west;

— Beneath a palm tree’s shade the Bramin lay,

Serenely tranquil, like the setting day;

Eager his youthful audience thronged around,

With warm attention and respect profound;

On each the prophet cast a gracious look,

Then raised his hand, and pointed as he spoke:

 

“See round yon hillock, sporting in the sun,

In wanton chace, the frisking lambkins run;

Pursuing and pursued, they nimbly bound,

And wheel in giddy circles round and round.

Mark the soft innocence, the gentle grace,

That sweetly animates each little face;

Their pure white fleeces and enamelled eyes

Glitter like stars in silver clouded skies.

 

“But lo! — tremendous as tornados sweep,

Or maddening whirlwinds scourge the indignant

deep;

With throat of thunder, lightning in his claws,

Death glaring eyes, and black sepulchral jaws;

With famine frantic, parched with quenchless

thirst;

— See the grim tyger from the forest burst!

Fierce on the trembling, bleating flock he darts,

And rends, at once, an hundred little hearts;

The mangled limbs, convulsed between his teeth,

Writhe, pant, and agonize, — alive in death!

While from his crashing jaws the blood distills,

And trickles down his breast in reeking rills;

Yet cannot melt it: — hark! — avert thine eye!

Behold! — behold the monster’s doom draws

nigh!

 

“Hot as the scorching blast on sandy plains,

With burning blood consuming all his veins,

A second tyger glances on the prey;

The former claims the empire of the day.

See the wild foes with mortal malice meet,

The plain in strong convulsions at their feet!

Their foamy jaws, tremendous to behold,

Like earthquakes, black and horrible unfold;

With rage instinct, their arrowy bristles rise,

Blood, fire and fury flashing from their eyes!

Locked in a dire embrace, the struggling foes,

With murthering paws, and force resistless close;

Hurled on the earth, in dust and gore they roll,

Each from his rival’s bosom tears the soul!

Still while they grind in agony their teeth,

With horrid thirst they drink each other’s blood

in death!

 

“Those ravening fiends, when human forms

they wore,

Stained the pure lap of earth with reeking gore;

Two Nabobs proud, in endless feuds engaged,

The guiltless perished, when the guilty raged;

Those lambs, those inoffensive Iambs, were they,

Who in their tyrants’ battles fell a prey.

But meeting, each atchieved a glorious deed,

For each a nation from a monster freed;

Their conquering swords exchanged a mutual

wound;

Each fought his rival’s death, and what he sought

he found.

Transformed to tygers; here again they flew

Their former subjects, then themselves o’erthrew!

What future punishments their crimes await,

Is yet an embryon in the womb of fate.

 

“Where two soft hills, arrayed in smiling

green,

Break the blue sky, and leave a vale between,

Emerging like the moon, when full and clear

She melts the clouds and slowly mounts the sphere,

In giant majesty, immense and strong,

An animated mountain moves along!

See the dread elephant, who towers sublime,

And seems twin brother of primeval time!

Two mining tusks of adamantine horn,

With formidable grace his front adorn;

Like a tall pine of root and branches spoiled,

Or Ceylon’s hideous serpent all uncoiled,

His mighty trunk extends, an awful length,

The sceptre of his reign, and symbol of his

strength:

Broad at his side his dreadful shadow stalks,

Eclipsing half the valley as he walks;

Thus at the signal of the passing moon,

The ghost of night appalls the world at noon!

But mark, my children! mark his modest mien,

His look contemplative, and brow serene,

That firm deep eye, majestically mild,

And touched with all the sweetness of a child;

While printed on his ample front appears,

The hoary wisdom of unnumbered years.

 

“’Twas in a barbarous age and frigid clime,

His spirit sired an human form sublime;

When thundering war with red vindictive hand,

Hurled bolts of desolation round his land;

That land, to fierce invading foes a prey,

In tears and ashes, blood and ruins lay.

Born to a throne that tottered on its base,

Born to command a brave and generous race,

Born to experience every change of fate,

To shew a Man in every station GREAT;

Long with unequal might his arms withstood

The ruthless storm and inundating flood;

Resistance vain; the prince resigned his throne,

And lived in pastoral solitude unknown.

There from the cottage window of repose,

He saw, he shared, he felt his country’s woes:

The mad barbarians, terrible in ire,

Marched through the realm with massacre and

fire;

The vales and mountains rung with swords and

shields,

The plains were graves, and lakes of blood the

fields,

The nation fainted, gashed with wounds all o’er,

And ebbing life escaped from every pore!

He viewed his dying country thus opprest,

And heaven’s own lightning kindled in his breast;

Then like a lion pierced by lurking foes,

Sudden as death the indignant hero rose,

Unsheathed his sword, his awful banner raised,

And rallying legions round his standard blazed;

Thick as the vapours, big with thunder, roll,

To form the tempest blackening round the pole;

As if the dead, awaked by dire alarms,

Had burst their dungeons and come forth in

arms,

So quick at freedom’s call the nation rose,

To blast their tyrants and confound their foes!

Like trembling flocks before the wolves of prey,

Or fainting stars that vanish from the day,

Like smoke annihilated by the wind,

They fled, they fell, nor left a trace behind!

But as the sun, when vanquished tempests fly

From the keen lightning of his holy eye,

Breaks, flaming, thro’ the clouds, in splendor

bright,

And rains o’er heaven and earth unbounded

light;

So did the prince his mightiest powers display,

When on the lulling lap of peace he lay;

Dreading the blandishments of loft repose,

More than the rage of all his former foes,

His native land with generous laws he blest,

By wisdom’s finger written in his breast;

Laws true to justice, and eternal right,

Clear as the sun, impartial as the light!

Thus was the prince, in low and high estate,

In peace and war, in fair and adverse fate,

Best of the Good, and greatest of the Great.

 

“Lo! emanating from the rustling brake,

Glides, like a ray of light, a glistening snake;

His pearly scales unnumbered hues unfold;

Green, crimson, purple and resplendent gold,

In gay confusion vanish, change, unite

With all the magic subtlety of light;

Graceful he rolls his undulating train,

Bright as a living rainbow on the plain:

Even thus in luxury’s soft delicious bowers,

The serpent pleasure plays among the flowers!

 

“Hark! how the echoing vales and mountains

ring,

While sweet around the plumy poets sing;

Where the broad oak o’ercanopies the glade,

The wild musicians warble in the shade.

Stealing along, in midnight silence, see

The guileful serpent lurks beneath the tree;

His awful train in swelling grass concealed,

His burnished head and crest alone revealed.

Mark how the wily tempter lifts on high

His broad, refulgent, fascinating eye;

That magic eye, whose dire enchantment draws

The powerless prey to his expecting jaws;

Jaws fell as famine, merciless as death,

His tongue with lightning tipt, the pestilence his

breath!

 

“The keen bewitching glance of sense be-

reaves

The giddy birds among the whispering leaves;

Silent they gaze upon those globes of fire,

And hesitate, and tremble, and admire;

The dazzling beams intoxicate their sight,

They freeze with horror, quiver with delight;

From bough to bough the fluttering victims

hop;

Then one by one, entranced and helpless, drop!

Linnets and finches perish in the snare,

With many a sweet inhabitant of air:

Why sleeps vindictive thunder in the skies

When poor, unfriended Robin Redbreast dies?

Thick as in autumn rain the weeping leaves,

The falling birds the monster’s maw receives:

Till gorged with slaughter, satiated with prey,

Slowly he trails his bloated bulk away;

But faint with motion, and with food oppressed,

He stretches all his lazy length to rest.

Vengeance, quick vengeance shall thy crimes

o’ertake,

When from that sleep of death thine eyes awake:

Base traitor! how thy dastard heart will fail,

To find its pride imprisoned in— a snail!

 

“That horrid snake was once a subtle slave,

Who played with fools the fool, with knaves the

knave;

A flatterer vile, whose lubricated tongue

With honey poisoned, and with kindness stung;

A treacherous friend, who with a kiss betrayed;

A foe, whose looks were deep in ambush laid;

With infant innocence he masked his guile,

Stabbed with a glance, and murdered with a smile.

As those deluded birds to death he drew,

So with his eyes the smooth assassin slew.

 

“Majestic rising, like the vivid morn,

On wings of winds magnificently borne,

A strong imperial eagle mounts on high,

Cleaves the light clouds, and sails along the

sky:

Broad to the sun his kindling breast he turns,

Till all his plumage in the radiance burns;

While from his eyes reanimated light

Breaks, like the day-spring on the brow of night.

Now from the throne of noon his sight he bends,

Where far beneath the dusky world extends:

His boundless vision beams from pole to pole,

Where empires flourish and where oceans roll;

The radiant palace of the morn he sees,

And the green vales that nurse the evening

breeze;

The realms of ice, where tempests dwell for-

lorn,

And southern seas, where vernal showers are

born.

Sublimely thus, with transport unconfined,

On wings of immortality, the MIND

Through nature’s infinite dominions soars;

Admires her works, her mysteries explores:

From wisdom’s sun imbibes inspiring light,

And glories in the grandeur of her flight;

While, far removed, the grovelling world ap-

pears,

A mount of follies and a vale of tears!

 

“Yon towering eagle, whose transcendant

soul

Spurns, nobly independent, spurns controul;

Whose breast disdains a weaker lord to own

Than the dread Sovereign of the spheres alone:

That eagle was my sire! — a bramin sage!

The pride of India, glory of his age!

Why should my tongue his deathless deeds de-

clare?

His country breathes his virtues with the air.

— But, hush! on me his speaking glances dart;

I feel the boding impulse at my heart:

What soft vibrations tremble on mine ear?

My father’s voice, his living voice, I hear.

Transporting tidings! — O thrice welcome doom!

He calls, — my father calls me, — to his tomb.

Yes, sire! ere three returning days decline,

Thy son’s cold allies shall repose with thine.

But thou, my raptured soul! on wings of fire,

Shalt to thy parent’s sacred nest aspire;

Nor long thine energy shall slumber there,

But burst the shell, and breathe meridian air;

“Gaze on yon son with keen undazzled sight,

Live in his beams, and triumph in his light.

 

” — Now, mark the words these dying lips

impart,

And wear this grand memorial round your heart:

All that inhabit ocean, air or earth,

From ONE ETERNAL SIRE derive their birth:

The Hand, that built the palace of the sky,

Formed the light wings that decorate a fly;

The Power, that wheels the circling planets

round,

Rears every infant floweret on the ground;

That Bounty, which the mightiest beings share,

Feeds the least gnat that gilds the evening air.

Thus all the wild inhabitants of woods,

Children of air and tenants of the floods;

All, all are equal, independent, free,

And all the heirs of immortality!

For all that live and breathe have once been

men,

And, in succession, will be such again:

Even you, in turn, that human shape must

change,

And through ten thousand forms of being range.

 

“Ah! then refrain your brethren’s blood to

spill,

And, till you can create, forbear to kill!

Oft as a guiltless fellow creature dies,

The blood of innocence for vengeance cries:

Even grim, rapacious savages of prey,

Presume not, save in self defence, to slay;

What, though to heaven their forfeit-lives they

owe,

Hath heaven commissioned thee to deal the

blow?

Crush not the feeble, inoffensive worm,

Thy sister’s spirit wears that humble form!

Why should thy cruel arrow smite yon thrush?

In him thy brother warbles from the bush!

When the poor, harmless kid, all trembling,

lies,

And begs his little life with infant cries;

Think, ere you take the throbbing victim’s

breath,

You doom a dear, an only child to death!

When at the ring the beauteous heifer stands;

— Stay, monster! stay those parricidal hands!

Canst thou not, in that mild dejected face,

The sacred features of thy mother trace?

When to the stake the generous bull you lead,

Tremble— ah, tremble! — lest your father bleed!

Let not your anger on your dog descend,

The faithful animal was once your friend:

The friend whose courage snatched you from the

grave,

When wrapt in flames, or wrestling with the

wave!

— Rash impious youth! renounce that horrid

knife;

Spare the sweet antelope! — ah! spare— thy wife!

In the meek victim’s tear-illumined eyes,

See the soft image of thy consort rife!

Such as she was, when all her bridal charms

Blushed on thy bosom, melted in thine arms;

Such as she is, when by romantic streams,

Her spirit greets thee in delicious dreams;

Not as she looked, when blighted in her bloom;

Not as she lies, all pale, in yonder tomb:

The tomb, on which thy constant tears are shed,

Oft as the pensive morning lifts her head;

The tomb, on which thy faithful cheek reclines,

Oft as the weeping star of evening shines;

That mournful tomb, where all thy joys repose;

That hallowed tomb, where all thy griefs shall

close!

 

“While yet I sing, the weary king of light

Resigns his sceptre to the queen of night;

Unnumbered orbs of living fire appear,

And roll in glittering grandeur o’er the sphere.

Perhaps the soul, released from earthly ties,

A thousand ages hence, may mount the skies;

Thro’ suns and planets, stars and systems range,

In each new forms assume, relinquish, change;

From age to age, from world to world aspire,

And climb the scale of being higher and higher.

But who these awful mysteries dare explore?

Pause, O my soul! and tremble, and adore!

 

“There is a POWER, all other powers above

Whose name is Goodness, and His nature Love;

Who called the infant universe to light,

From central nothing and circumfluent night.

On His great providence all worlds depend,

As trembling atoms to their centre tend:

In nature’s face His glory shines confest.

She wears His sacred image on her breast;

His spirit breathes in every living soul;

His bounty feeds, His presence fills the whole;

Though seen, invisible — though felt, unknown:

All that exist, exist in Him alone.

But who the wonders of His hand can trace

Through the dread ocean of infinite space?

When from the shore we lift our fainting eyes,

Where endless scenes of Godlike grandeur rise;

Like sparkling atoms in the noontide rays,

Worlds, stars, and suns, and universes blaze!

Yet these transcendant monuments that shine,

Immortal miracles of skill divine,

These, and ten thousand more, are only still

THE SHADOW OF HIS POWER, THE TRAN-

SCRIPT OF HIS WILL!”

 

Castle of York, April 14th, 1796.