by Hannah Flagg Gould
Ferdinand, while on his march against the Moors, died of an illness which could not be accounted for, on the 17th of September, 1312. His death took place on the thirtieth day from that on which he had caused two brothers to be put to the cruel death, and for the reasons described in this poem; and he was summoned by them a moment before they were hurled from the rock, to meet them before the King of Kings, in thirty days from that, to atone for the deed. He has since borne in Spanish history the name of el Emplazado, the Summoned.
A Scene In Spain.
Valencia's streets are thronged. With fearful state
The crowd move on, and pass without the gate.
That ancient city leaving far behind,
Up the rude height the rugged way they wind.
Where yon bold rock its awful forehead rears,
Lashed by the tempests of six thousand years,
And to the yawning depth below looks down
Steadfast and stern, with one eternal frown.
The space between the cliff and that abyss
Is all, between another world and this,
To him who measures it. If human breath
Reach to its end, 't is but a gift to death.
And then the vultures, ravening wolves of air!
Hover around in quest of plunder there,
Where the coy sun has left the cavern, laid
By the dark crag in everlasting shade.
Now to that frowning height the people go
With groanings loud, and imprecations low.
As in that multitude, who took their way
Up the dread mount, where ONE was heard to say,
'Father forgive them!' in this jarring crowd,
Some wag their heads, while some with grief are bowed;
And mingled sounds of horror, woe, despair,
Triumph and pain oppress the morning air.
The king is there, the jealous Ferdinand,
Fourth of Castile; and there with ready hand
His executioner, for work so fell
'T will wake a laugh where rebel angels dwell.
The hardened earth will blush to give it place.
In blackest lines a hand on high will trace
A record of the deed, which Mercy's tear
May not efface, she cries so vainly here.
But, who are they -- the young, majestic twain
With forms so fair, and loaded with the chain?
All eyes are fastened on them, while their own
Seem, as they move unheeded and alone;
And time's short, narrow vista looking through
At things beyond it, kindled with the view
Till life immortal lent a steady ray
To their white, marble faces! -- who are they?
Two noble brothers, high in rank and power!
Of youth and chivalry the pride and flower.
The Carvajales, loved by all Castile
So much that Ferdinand begins to feel
Upon his haughty head a loosened crown,
And that his throne may shake and cast him down.
Of these two gallant knights he fain would rid
His kingdom, while his jealous fears are hid.
There has been murder near the palace walls!
He, who at evening walked the stately halls
In manly beauty to the festal board,
Where sparkling draughts in golden cups were poured;
Young Benavides, favorite friend and guest,
Whom Ferdinand loved most and served the best,
Retiring from the banquet lone and late,
Has met a fatal dagger at the gate.
There did the menials find him in his gore,
With only time to gasp, and be no more!
But whose bold hand had urged the fatal blade
That on his heart the mortal touch had made,
He gave no sign, no broken accent fell
From off his quivering, ashy lips, to tell.
The name is wrapped in silence, like the clay
That was to death's dark mansion borne away.
At this the stony bosom of the king
Of feeling showed no brightly welling spring,
Whence sorrow's gentle waters forth might pour,
Because his friend, his favorite was no more.
His heart had settled in a sea of pride,
Till every part was cold and petrified.
He felt the blow; but felt it in his brain,
Where flame and frenzy testified the pain.
In wrath he swore, whoe'er had done the deed,
Should take no trial --have no time to plead!
And using this, the murder of his friend,
As means to serve his own ambitious end --
To sate his envy and allay his fears,
He stamped the names of these young chevaliers,
So high and spotless, with the blighting crime
Of launching Benavides out of time.
He knew Alonzo, eldest of the two,
For Benavides's sister bore a true
And ardent love; -- that, on the maiden's part,
Fair Violante gave him back her heart.
He knew her brother had opposed the tie,
And marked the lovers with a watchful eye;
That cutting words and slander's arrows came
From him, upon Alonzo's ear and fame.
He called the death,
revenge for baffled love, and using this to prove
And just contempt;
The brothers guilty, brought them to his throne,
Where, by his single word and will alone,
He charged them with a blood-stained, murderous hand,
Convicted both; and sentenced them to stand
On that dread cliff, and thence, together hurled,
To take their passage to another world!
The people murmur at their cruel fate;
But still the king is stern and obdurate.
He fears a rescue; and an armed band
Surrounds the prisoners; while with Ferdinand
There moves of guards a long, imposing train
To show death certain, and resistance vain.
In this array the fearful point is gained,
And foremost there, the brothers stand unchained.
Behold them now, upon the dizzy height,
Looking their long adieu to this world's light --
Breathing their farewell breath of nature's air,,
With their last earthly footstep taken there!
From life's sad limit, with a solemn tone
And words commanding, while for scenes unknown,
Their guiltless spirits raise a ready wing,
They thus break silence and address the king.
In thrice ten days from this, king Ferdinand,
A naked soul, we summon thee to stand
Before the King of kings, the Judge Most High,
To answer for the death that thus we die
Without a trial; to the Eternal throne,
For twofold murder, come and take thine own,
Where guilt and innocence the balance weighs!
Remember! meet us there in THIRTY DAYS!
A moment now in silent prayer they bend,
And to Almighty love and truth commend
Their injured souls, that stainless in the sight
Of Heaven, are calmly poising for their flight.
Then Don Alonzo, taking from his breast
The silken scarf, has on it closely pressed
His pallid lips, which, to a friend that's near,
Give his last charge designed for mortal ear.
To Donna Violante carry this,
Tell her it brings Alonzo's dying kiss.
Tell her the heart that beat beneath its fold
Devoutly loved her, till 't was still and cold --
That this warm bosom never could retain
Love for an angel, with a fiend-like stain --
That, by our final prayer, our latest breath,
We both are guiltless of her brother's death!
All now is ready -- now, the awful throw!
Locked in a close embrace the brothers go,
Whirling down! down! -- O Nature! from the view
Turn off, for thou art sick and bleeding, too!
Sun, from the earth let now thy glory fail;
In sable clouds thy mid-day splendor veil!
Untimely darkness, come, and like a pall,
O'er the last frightful picture kindly fall!
The dreadful act is closed, the curtain dropped.
But, can the voice of conscience thus be stopped?
Ah, no! Her iron tongue without control
Sounds deep and ceaseless through the haunted soul
Of Ferdinand, the dismal, harrowing chime
Of 'twofold murder!' 'thirty days of time!'
The monarch has no power that voice to still!
The foe within his breast, no arm to kill!
The hasty moon has nearly run her round;
And still he hears the solemn, threatening sound!
He now lies stretched upon a bed of pain,
Wrung at the vitals, tortured in the brain,
By Death's fierce ministers, while struggling life
Forced to succumb, is sinking from the strife,
When, lo! a herald flying to the court,
Some mighty tidings hastens to report!
Now to the king and those around are read
The dying words of one already dead,
Far from Valencia, in a distant clime; --
A man whose soul allied to hidden crime,
Had deep and deadly stains; and when about
To quit her dwelling, could not wash them out,
And going to her place, would leave a sting
Behind her for the bosom of the king.
THIS TO KING FERDINAND. Read thou, and know,
Of Benavides I, the secret foe,
Long envied his honor near the throne.
And, for the favor thou to him hast shown,
I hated thee; while vengeance on you both
I vowed, and with a desperado's oath!
His life-stream spouted on this hand that writes!
His death is on the spirit that indites!
I chose an hour well suited to the deed,
Darkness to veil it-- torments to succeed,
Could I but send thy minion's giddy soul
Bathed for my purpose, in the maddening bowl,
And reeling forth in that accursed disguise,
To find the worm that never, never dies!
My steady steel was faithful to its trust;
And what was Benavides here, but dust?
I fled the kingdom, while thy wrath, I knew,
Would soon make thee a haunted murderer too;
That when thy short-lived earthly reign should end,
Hot chains might re-unite thee to thy friend
Where a long train of monarchs writhe and groan
For power perverted and a bloody throne;
And I, the wretched PEDRO, may appear
In royal company, who spurned me here!
I knew the brothers virtuous, holy, high!
Fit for bright angels of the upper sky!
And all the demon in me could not bear
To cut them off from certain entrance there,
By leaving them a longer space below,
To meet temptation -- earth's dark ways to know.
Nor would that demon thus unfinished leave
The snare I had begun for thee to weave!
Two guiltless victims thou hast slain, and now
I see fulfilled the purpose of my vow.
Hope is no more! To be thy fellow-heir
To all the mighty meaning of Despair,
I go before thee, only to await
And hail thine entrance through perdition's gate!
Truth stands --earth fails! and from her crumbling brink,
Thus Pedro greets thee -- lo! I sink! I sink --
Hold! cries the king, with wildly glaring eyes,
Say not, 'the worm that never, never dies!'
What day is this?
The thirtieth from _____
Away! out of my sight, thou who would'st name that day!
Fly from my presence! palsied be the tongue
And lips whereon that evil sentence hung!
O, for one breath of air to fan my own!
He said, 'For power perverted -- bloody throne! -- '
'The thirtieth,' still rings through his dying ear.
The forms of sight grow dim and disappear.
His hand in darkness wanders for a hold
It cannot feel; and growing white and cold,
Falls numb and heavy on his heaving breast.
The spring is snapped! the wheels are all at rest!
O power! the eye whose glance was late command,
Can't close itself! Is this proud Ferdinand?
O'erhung with silken drapery, lies the thing
That yesterday was feared, and called a king.
A mightier one than governed wide Castile
Upon that humbled clay has set his seal!
In bitter memory keeping well the day,
The cited spirit took her lonely way!
Earth knows but this -- the SUMMONS was obeyed!
Eternal Wisdom veils the rest in shade.
Source:Poems By Miss H. F. Gould. Volume 2.
Hilliard, Gray, & Co., Boston