And when the daring kiss of morn,
Empurpling, made thy charms more fair,
Sweet strains from unseen minstrels borne
Awoke from dreams the perfumed air.
Vouchsafe at last our minds to free
From doubts pertaining to thy charms,—
The meaning of thy bended knee,
The secret of thy vanished arms.
Wast thou in truth conjoined with Mars?
Did thy fair hands his shield embrace,
The surface of whose golden bars
Grew lovely from thy mirrored face?
Or was it some bright scroll of fame
Thus poised on thine extended knee,
Upon which thou didst trace the name
Of that fierce god so dear to thee?
Whate’er thou hadst, no mere delight
Was thine the glittering prize to hold;
Not thine the form that met thy sight,
Replying from the burnished gold;
Unmindful what thy hands retained,
Thy gaze is fixed beyond, above;
Some dearer object held enchained
The goddess of immortal love.
We mark the motion of thine eyes,
And smile; for, heldst thou shield or scroll,
A tender love-glance we surprise,
That tells the secret of thy soul.
When o’er the aged lion steals
The instinct of approaching death,
Whose numbing grasp he vaguely feels
In trembling limbs and labored breath,
He shuns the garish light of day,
And leaving mate and whelps at play,
In mournful silence creeps away.
From bush to bush, by devious trails,
He drags himself from hill to hill,
And, as his old strength slowly fails,
Drinks long at many a mountain rill,
Until he gains, with stifled moan,
A height, to hated man unknown,
Where he may die, at least alone.
Relaxing now his mighty claws,
He lies, half shrouded by his mane,
His grand head resting on his paws,
And heeding little save his pain,
As o’er his eyes, so sad and deep,
The film of death begins to creep,—
The prelude to eternal sleep.
As Caesar, reeling ’neath the stroke
And dagger-thrust of many a friend,
Drew o’er his face his Roman cloak,
To meet, unseen, his tragic end,
So hath this desert-monarch tried
With noble dignity to hide
From others how and where he died.
And now his spirit is serene;
For here no stranger can intrude
To view this last, pathetic scene,
Or mar its sombre solitude;
Prone on the lonely mountain crest,
Confronting the resplendent west,
The dying lion sinks to rest.
Proud king of beasts! thy death should teach
Mankind the cheapness of display;
More eloquent than human speech,
Thy grand example shows the way
To pass from life, unheard, unseen,
And with composed, majestic mien
Death’s awful sacredness to screen.
Nay, more! thou didst select a place
Where, unobserved, thy form could rest,
Till Mother Earth with fond embrace
Should hide it in her ample breast;
Like Moses in lone Nebo’s land,
Thou hast been sepulchred in sand,
Unseen by eye, untouched by hand.