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THE RUSSIAN FUGITIVE

                                 PART I

          ENOUGH of rose-bud lips, and eyes
            Like harebells bathed in dew,
          Of cheek that with carnation vies,
            And veins of violet hue;
          Earth wants not beauty that may scorn
            A likening to frail flowers;
          Yea, to the stars, if they were born
            For seasons and for hours.

          Through Moscow's gates, with gold unbarred,
            Stepped One at dead of night,                             10
          Whom such high beauty could not guard
            From meditated blight;
          By stealth she passed, and fled as fast
            As doth the hunted fawn,
          Nor stopped, till in the dappling east
            Appeared unwelcome dawn.

          Seven days she lurked in brake and field,
            Seven nights her course renewed,
          Sustained by what her scrip might yield,
            Or berries of the wood;                                   20
          At length, in darkness travelling on,
            When lowly doors were shut,
          The haven of her hope she won,
            Her Foster-mother's hut.

          "To put your love to dangerous proof
            I come," said she, "from far;
          For I have left my Father's roof,
            In terror of the Czar."
          No answer did the Matron give,
            No second look she cast,                                  30
          But hung upon the Fugitive,
            Embracing and embraced.

          She led the Lady to a seat
            Beside the glimmering fire,
          Bathed duteously her wayworn feet,
            Prevented each desire:--
          The cricket chirped, the house-dog dozed,
            And on that simple bed,
          Where she in childhood had reposed,
            Now rests her weary head.                                 40

          When she, whose couch had been the sod,
            Whose curtain, pine or thorn,
          Had breathed a sigh of thanks to God,
            Who comforts the forlorn;
          While over her the Matron bent
            Sleep sealed her eyes, and stole
          Feeling from limbs with travel spent,
            And trouble from the soul.

          Refreshed, the Wanderer rose at morn,
            And soon again was dight                                  50
          In those unworthy vestments worn
            Through long and perilous flight;
          And "O beloved Nurse," she said,
            "My thanks with silent tears
          Have unto Heaven and You been paid:
            Now listen to my fears!

          "Have you forgot"--and here she smiled--
            "The babbling flatteries
          You lavished on me when a child
            Disporting round your knees?                              60
          I was your lambkin, and your bird,
            Your star, your gem, your flower;
          Light words, that were more lightly heard
            In many a cloudless hour!

          The blossom you so fondly praised
            Is come to bitter fruit;
          A mighty One upon me gazed;
            I spurned his lawless suit,
          And must be hidden from his wrath:
            You, Foster-father dear,                                  70
          Will guide me in my forward path;
            I may not tarry here!

          I cannot bring to utter woe
            Your proved fidelity."--
          "Dear Child, sweet Mistress, say not so!
            For you we both would die."
          "Nay, nay, I come with semblance feigned
            And cheek embrowned by art;
          Yet, being inwardly unstained,
            With courage will depart."                                80

          "But whither would you, could you, flee?
            A poor Man's counsel take;
          The Holy Virgin gives to me
            A thought for your dear sake;
          Rest, shielded by our Lady's grace,
            And soon shall you be led
          Forth to a safe abiding-place,
            Where never foot doth tread."

                                 PART II

          THE dwelling of this faithful pair
            In a straggling village stood,                            90
          For One who breathed unquiet air
            A dangerous neighbourhood;
          But wide around lay forest ground
            With thickets rough and blind;
          And pine-trees made a heavy shade
            Impervious to the wind.

          And there, sequestered from the sight,
            Was spread a treacherous swamp,
          On which the noonday sun shed light
            As from a lonely lamp;                                   100
          And midway in the unsafe morass,
            A single Island rose
          Of firm dry ground, with healthful grass
            Adorned, and shady boughs.

          The Woodman knew, for such the craft
            This Russian vassal plied,
          That never fowler's gun, nor shaft
            Of archer, there was tried;
          A sanctuary seemed the spot
            From all intrusion free;                                 110
          And there he planned an artful Cot
            For perfect secrecy.

          With earnest pains unchecked by dread
            Of Power's far-stretching hand,
          The bold good Man his labour sped
            At nature's pure command;
          Heart-soothed, and busy as a wren,
            While, in a hollow nook,
          She moulds her sight-eluding den
            Above a murmuring brook.                                 120

          His task accomplished to his mind,
            The twain ere break of day
          Creep forth, and through the forest wind
            Their solitary way;
          Few words they speak, nor dare to slack
            Their pace from mile to mile,
          Till they have crossed the quaking marsh
            And reached the lonely Isle.

          The sun above the pine-trees showed
            A bright and cheerful face;                              130
          And Ina looked for her abode,
            The promised hiding-place;
          She sought in vain, the Woodman smiled;
            No threshold could be seen,
          Nor roof, nor window;--all seemed wild
            As it had ever been.

          Advancing, you might guess an hour,
            The front with such nice care
          Is masked, "if house it be or bower,"
            But in they entered are;                                 140
          As shaggy as were wall and roof
            With branches intertwined,
          So smooth was all within, air-proof,
            And delicately lined:

          And hearth was there, and maple dish,
            And cups in seemly rows,
          And couch--all ready to a wish
            For nurture or repose;
          And Heaven doth to her virtue grant
            That here she may abide                                  150
          In solitude, with every want
            By cautious love supplied.

          No queen, before a shouting crowd,
            Led on in bridal state,
          E'er struggled with a heart so proud,
            Entering her palace gate:
          Rejoiced to bid the world farewell,
            No saintly anchoress
          E'er took possession of her cell
            With deeper thankfulness.                                160

          "Father of all, upon thy care
            And mercy am I thrown;
          Be thou my safeguard!"--such her prayer
            When she was left alone,
          Kneeling amid the wilderness
            When joy had passed away,
          And smiles, fond efforts of distress
            To hide what they betray!

          The prayer is heard, the Saints have seen,
            Diffused through form and face                           170
          Resolves devotedly serene;
            That monumental grace
          Of Faith, which doth all passions tame
            That Reason 'should' control;
          And shows in the untrembling frame
            A statue of the soul.

                                PART III

          'TIS sung in ancient minstrelsy
            That Phoebus wont to wear
          The leaves of any pleasant tree
            Around his golden hair;                                  180
          Till Daphne, desperate with pursuit
            Of his imperious love,
          At her own prayer transformed, took root,
            A laurel in the grove.

          Then did the Penitent adorn
            His brow with laurel green;
          And 'mid his bright locks never shorn
            No meaner leaf was seen;
          And poets sage, through every age,
            About their temples wound                                190
          The bay; and conquerors thanked the Gods,
            With laurel chaplets crowned.

          Into the mists of fabling Time
            So far runs back the praise
          Of Beauty, that disdains to climb
            Along forbidden ways;
          That scorns temptation; power defies
            Where mutual love is not;
          And to the tomb for rescue flies
            When life would be a blot.                               200

          To this fair Votaress, a fate
            More mild doth Heaven ordain
          Upon her Island desolate;
            And words, not breathed in vain,
          Might tell what intercourse she found,
            Her silence to endear;
          What birds she tamed, what flowers the ground
            Sent forth her peace to cheer.

          To one mute Presence, above all,
            Her soothed affections clung,                            210
          A picture on the cabin wall
            By Russian usage hung--
          The Mother-maid, whose countenance bright
            With love abridged the day;
          And, communed with by taper light,
            Chased spectral fears away.

          And oft, as either Guardian came,
            The joy in that retreat
          Might any common friendship shame,
            So high their hearts would beat;                         220
          And to the lone Recluse, whate'er
            They brought, each visiting
          Was like the crowding of the year
            With a new burst of spring.

          But, when she of her Parents thought,
            The pang was hard to bear;
          And, if with all things not enwrought,
            That trouble still is near.
          Before her flight she had not dared
            Their constancy to prove,                                230
          Too much the heroic Daughter feared
            The weakness of their love.

          Dark is the past to them, and dark
            The future still must be,
          Till pitying Saints conduct her bark
            Into a safer sea--
          Or gentle Nature close her eyes,
            And set her Spirit free
          From the altar of this sacrifice,
            In vestal purity.                                        240

          Yet, when above the forest-glooms
            The white swans southward passed,
          High as the pitch of their swift plumes
            Her fancy rode the blast;
          And bore her toward the fields of France
            Her Father's native land,
          To mingle in the rustic dance,
            The happiest of the band!

          Of those beloved fields she oft
            Had heard her Father tell                                250
          In phrase that now with echoes soft
            Haunted her lonely cell;
          She saw the hereditary bowers,
            She heard the ancestral stream;
          The Kremlin and its haughty towers
            Forgotten like a dream!

                                 PART IV

          THE ever-changing Moon had traced
            Twelve times her monthly round,
          When through the unfrequented Waste
            Was heard a startling sound;                             260
          A shout thrice sent from one who chased
            At speed a wounded deer,
          Bounding through branches interlaced,
            And where the wood was clear.

          The fainting creature took the marsh,
            And toward the Island fled,
          While plovers screamed with tumult harsh
            Above his antlered head;
          This, Ina saw; and, pale with fear,
            Shrunk to her citadel;                                   270
          The desperate deer rushed on, and near
            The tangled covert fell.

          Across the marsh, the game in view,
            The Hunter followed fast,
          Nor paused, till o'er the stag he blew
            A death-proclaiming blast;
          Then, resting on her upright mind,
            Came forth the Maid--"In me
          Behold," she said, "a stricken Hind
            Pursued by destiny!                                      280

          From your deportment, Sir! I deem
            That you have worn a sword,
          And will not hold in light esteem
            A suffering woman's word;
          There is my covert, there perchance
            I might have lain concealed,
          My fortunes hid, my countenance
            Not even to you revealed.

          Tears might be shed, and I might pray,
            Crouching and terrified,                                 290
          That what has been unveiled to day,
            You would in mystery hide;
          But I will not defile with dust
            The knee that bends to adore
          The God in heaven;--attend, be just;
            This ask I, and no more!

          I speak not of the winter's cold,
            For summer's heat exchanged,
          While I have lodged in this rough hold,
            From social life estranged;                              300
          Nor yet of trouble and alarms:
            High Heaven is my defence;
          And every season has soft arms
            For injured Innocence.

          From Moscow to the Wilderness
            It was my choice to come,
          Lest virtue should be harbourless,
            And honour want a home;
          And happy were I, if the Czar
            Retain his lawless will,                                 310
          To end life here like this poor deer,
            Or a lamb on a green hill."

          "Are you the Maid," the Stranger cried,
            "From Gallic parents sprung,
          Whose vanishing was rumoured wide,
            Sad theme for every tongue;
          Who foiled an Emperor's eager quest?
            You, Lady, forced to wear
          These rude habiliments, and rest
            Your head in this dark lair!"                            320

          But wonder, pity, soon were quelled;
            And in her face and mien
          The soul's pure brightness he beheld
            Without a veil between:
          He loved, he hoped,--a holy flame
            Kindled 'mid rapturous tears;
          The passion of a moment came
            As on the wings of years.

          "Such bounty is no gift of chance,"
            Exclaimed he; "righteous Heaven,                         330
          Preparing your deliverance,
            To me the charge hath given.
          The Czar full oft in words and deeds
            Is stormy and self-willed;
          But, when the Lady Catherine pleads,
            His violence is stilled.

          Leave open to my wish the course,
            And I to her will go;
          From that humane and heavenly source,
            Good, only good, can flow."                              340
          Faint sanction given, the Cavalier
            Was eager to depart,
          Though question followed question, dear,
            To the Maiden's filial heart.

          Light was his step,--his hopes, more light,
            Kept pace with his desires;
          And the fifth morning gave him sight
            Of Moscow's glittering spires.
          He sued:--heart-smitten by the wrong,
            To the lorn Fugitive                                     350
          The Emperor sent a pledge as strong
            As sovereign power could give.

          O more than mighty change! If e'er
            Amazement rose to pain,
          And joy's excess produced a fear
            Of something void and vain;
          'Twas when the Parents, who had mourned
            So long the lost as dead,
          Beheld their only Child returned,
            The household floor to tread.                            360

          Soon gratitude gave way to love
            Within the Maiden's breast;
          Delivered and Deliverer move
            In bridal garments drest;
          Meek Catherine had her own reward;
            The Czar bestowed a dower;
          And universal Moscow shared
            The triumph of that hour.

          Flowers strewed the ground; the nuptial feast
            Was held with costly state;                              370
          And there, 'mid many a noble guest,
            The Foster-parents sate;
          Encouraged by the imperial eye,
            They shrank not into shade;
          Great was their bliss, the honour high
            To them and nature paid!
                                                              1830.


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