Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

mysterious visit had beed paid, though he had implored it in vain. But how awfully was his prayer answered in what he now saw! The roof of the dungeon was within a foot of his head. The two ends were so near, that in six paces he trod the space between them. Vivenzio shuddered as he gazed, and as his steps traversed the narrowed area. But his feelings no longer vented themselves in frantic wailings. With folded arms, and clenched teeth, with eyes that were blood-shot from much watching, and fixed with a vacant glare upon the ground, with a hard quick breathing, and a hurried walk, he strode backwards and forwards in silent musing for several hours. What mind shall conceive, what tongue utter, or what pen describe the dark and terrible character of his thoughts! Like the fate that moulded them, they had no similitude in the wide range of this world's agony for man. Suddenly he stopped, and his eyes were riveted upon that part of the wall which was over his bed of straw. Words are inscribed here! A human language, traced by a human hand! He rushes towards them: but his blood freezes as he reads :

“I, Ludovica Sforza, tempted by the gold of the Prince of Tolfi, spent three years in contriving and executing this accursed triumph of my art. When it was completed, the perfidious Tolfi, more devil than man, who conducted me hither one morning, to be witness, as he said, of its perfection, doomed me to be the first victim of my own pernicious skill; lest, as he declared, I should divulge the secret, or repeat the effort of my ingenuity. May God pardon him, as I hope he will me, that ministered to his unhallowed purpose! Miserable wretch, whoe'er thou art, that readest these lines, fall on thy knees, and invoke as I have done, His sustaining mercy, who alone can nerve thee to meet the vengeance of Tolfi, armed with his tremendous engine, which in a few hours must crush you, as it will the needy wretch who made it.” · A deep groan burst from Vivenzio. He stood, like one transfixed, with dilated eyes, expanded nostrils, and quivering lips, gaz. ing at this fatal inscription. It was as if a voice from the sepulchre had sounded in his ears, “ Prepare !” Hope forsook him. There was his sentence, recorded in those dismal words. The future stood unveiled before him, ghastly and appalling. His brain already feels the descending horror,--his bones seem to crack and crumble in the mighty grasp of the iron walls ! Unknowing what it is he does, he fumbles in his garment for some weapon of selfdestruction. He clenches his throat in his convulsive gripe, as though he would strangle himself at once. He stares upon the walls, and his warring spirit demands, “Will they not anticipate their office if I dash my head against them ? An hysterical laugh chokes him as he exclaims, “why should I? He was but a man who died first in their fierce embrace; and I should be less than man not to do as much !”

The evening sun was descending, and Vivenzio beheld its golden beams streaming through one of the windows. What a thrill of joy shot through his soul at the sight! It was a precious link, that united him, for the moment, with the world beyond. There was ecstasy in the thought. As he gazed, long and earnestly, it seemed as if the windows had lowered sufficiently for him to reach them. With one bound he was beneath them-with one wild spring he clung to the bars. Whether it was so contrived, purposely to madden with delight the wretch who looked, he knew not; but, at the extremity of a long vista, cut through the solid rocks, the ocean, the sky, the setting sun, olive groves, shady walks, and, in the farthest distance, delicious glimpses of magnificent Sicily, burst upon his sight. How exquisite was the cool breeze as it swept across his cheek, loaded with fragrance! He inhaled it as though it were the breath of continued life. And there was a freshness in the landscape, and in the rippling of the calm green sea, that fell upon his withering heart like dew upon the parched earth. How he gazed, and panted, and still clung to his hold! sometimes hanging by one hand, sometimes by the other, and then grasping the bars with both, as loth to quite the smiling paradise out-stretched before him; till exhausted, and his hands swollen and benumbed, he dropped helpless down, and lay stunned for a considerable time by the fall.

When he recovered, the glorious vision had vanished. He was in darkness. He doubted whether it was not a dream that had pass. ed before his sleeping fancy; but gradually his scattered thoughts returned, and with them came remembrance. Yes! he had looked once again upon the gorgeous splendour of nature! Once again his eyes had trembled beneath their veiled lids, at the sun's radi. ance, and sought repose in the soft verdure of the olive tree, or the gentle swell of undulating waves. Oh, that he were a mariner, exposed upon those waves to the worst fury of storm and tempest; or a very wretch, loathsome with disease, plague-stricken, and his body one leprous contagion from crown to sole, hunted forth to gasp out the remnant of infectious life beneath those verdant trees, so he might shun the destiny upon whose edge he tottered !

Vain thoughts like these would steal over his mind from time to time, in spite of himself; but they scarcely moved it from that stupor into which it had sunk, and which kept him, during the whole night, like one who had been drugged with opium. He was equally insensible to the calls of hunger and of thirst, though the third day was now commencing since even a drop of water had passed his lips. He remained on the ground, sometimes sitting, sometimes lying ; at intervals, sleeping heavily; and when not sleeping, silently brooding over what was to come, or talking aloud, in disordered speech, of his wrongs, of his friends, of his home, and of those he loved, with a confused mingling of all.

In this pitiable condition, the sixth and last morning dawned upon Vivenzio, if dawn it might be called—the dim obscure light which faintly struggled through the ONE SOLITARY window of his dungeon. He could hardly be said to notice the melancholy token. And yet he did notice it; for as he raised his eyes and saw the portentous sign, there was a slight convulsive distortion of his countenance. But what did attract his notice, and at the sight of which his agitation was excessive, was the change his iron bed had undergone. It was a bed no longer. It stood before him, the visible semblance of a funeral couch or bier! When he beheld this, he started from the ground; and, in raising himself, suddenly struck his head against the roof, which was now so low that he could no longer stand upright. “God's will be done!" was all he said, as he crouched his body, and placed his hand upon the bier; for such it was. The iron bedstead had been so contrived, by the mechanical art of Ludovico Sforza, that as the advancing walls came in contact with its head and feet, a pressure was produced upon concealed springs, which when made to play, set in motion a very simple though ingeniously contrived machinery, that effected the transformation. The object was, of course, to heighten, in the closing scene of this horrible drama, all the feelings of despair and anguish which the preceding ones had aroused. For the same reason, the last window was so made as to admit only a shadowy kind of gloom rather than light, that the wretched captive might be surrounded, as it were, with every seeming preparation for approaching death.

Vivenzio seated himself on his bier. Then he knelt and prayed fervently; and sometimes tears would gush from him. The air seemed thick, and he breathed with difficulty; or it might be that he fancied it was so, from the hot and narrow limits of his dungeon, which were now so diminished that he could neither stand up nor lie down at his full length. But his wasted spirits and oppressed mind no longer struggled within him. He was past hope, and fear shook him no more. Happy if thus revenge had struck its final blow; for he would have fallen beneath it almost unconscious of a pang. But such a lethargy of the soul, after such an excitement of its fiercest passions, had entered into the diabolical calculations of

Tolfi; and the fell artificer of his designs had imagined a counteracting device.

The tolling of an enormous bell struck upon the ears of Vivenzio! He started. It beat but once. The sound was so close and stunning, that it seemed to shatter his very brain, while it echoed through the rocky passages like reverberating peals of thunder. This was followed by a sudden crash of the roof and walls, as if they were about to fall upon and close around him at once. Vivenzio screamed, and instinctively spread forth his arms, as though he had a giant's strength to hold them back. They had moved nearer to him, and were now motionless. Vivenzio looked up, and saw the roof almost touching his head, even as he sat cowering beneath it; and he felt that a further contraction of but a few inches only must commence the frightful operation. Roused as he had been, he now gasped for breath. His body shook violentlyhe was bent nearly double. His hands rested upon either wall, and his feet were drawn under him to avoid the pressure in front. Thus he remained for more than an hour, when that deaf. ening bell beat again, and again there came the crash of horrid death. But the concussion was now so great that it struck Vivenzio down. As he lay gathered up in lessened bulk, the bell beat loud and frequent-crash succeeded crash-and on, and on, and on came the mysterious engine of death, till Vivenzio's smothered groans were heard no more! He was horribly crushed by the ponderous roof and collapsing sides—and the flattened bier was his Iron Shroud.

Blackwood's Magazine.

A FAREWELL TO TOBACCO.*

May the Babylonish curse
Strait confound my stammering verse,
If I can a passage see
In this word.perplexity,
Or a fit expression find,
Or a language to my mind,
(Still the phrase is wide or scant)
To take leave of thee, GREAT PLANT !
Or in any terms relate
Half my love, or half my hate :
For I hate, yet love, thee so,
That, whichever thing I show,
The plain truth will seem to be
A constrain'd hyperbole,
And the passion to proceed
More from a mistress than a weed.

Sooty retainer to the vine,
Bacchus' black servant, negro fine;
Sorcerer, that makest us dote upon
Thy begrimed complexion,
And, for thy pernicious sake,
More and greater oaths to break
Than reclaimed lovers take
'Gainst women: thou thy siege dost lay
Much too in the female way,
While thou suck'st the lab'ring breath
Faster than kisses or than death.

Thou in such a cloud dost bind us,
That our worst foes cannot find us,
And ill fortune, that would thwart us,
Shoots at rovers shooting at us;

While each man, through thy height'ning Irony all, and feign'd abuse.
Does like a smoking Etna seen, (steam, Such as perplext lovers use,
And all about us does express

At a need, when, in despair (Fancy and wit in richest dress)

To paint forth their fairest fair, A Sicilian fruitfulness.

Or in part but to express

That exceeding comeliness
Thou through such a mist dost show us, Which their fancies doth so strike,
That our best friends do not know us, They horrow language of dislike ;
And for those allowed features,

And, instead of Dearest Miss,
Due to reasonable creatures,

Jewel, Honey, Sweetheart, Bliss, Liken'st us to fell Chimeras,

And those forms of old admiring, Monsters that, who see us, fear us ;

Call her Cockatrice and Siren, Worse than Cerberus or Geryon,

Basilisk and all that's evil, Or, who first loved a cloud, Ixion.

Witch, Hyena, Mermaid, Devil,

Ethiop, Wench, and Blackamoor, Bacchus we know, and we allow

Monkey, Ape, and twenty more ; His tipsy rites. But what art thou,

Friendly Trait'ress, loving Foe, That but by reflex canst show

Not that she is truly so, What his deity can do,

But no other way they know As the false Egyptian spell

A contentment to express, Aped the true Hebrew miracle ?

Borders so upon excess, Some few vapours thou mayst raise,

That they do not rightly wot
The weak brain may serve to amaze,

Whether it be pain or not.
But to the reins and nobler heart
Canst nor life nor heat impart.

Or, as men, constrain'd to part

With what 's nearest to their heart, Brother of Bacchus, later born,

While their sorrow's at the height, The old world was sure forlorn,

Lose discrimination quite, Wanting thee, that aidest more

And their hasty wrath let fall, The god's victories than before

To appease their frantic gall, All his panthers, and the brawls

On the darling thing whatever, Of his piping Bacchanals.

Whence they feel it death to sever, These, as stale, we disallow,

Though it be, as they, perforce,
Or judge of thee meant: only thou

Guiltless of the sad divorce.
His true Indian conquest art;
And, for ivy round his dart,

For I must (nor let it grieve thee,
The reformed god now weaves

Friendliest of plants, that I must) leave thee , A finer thyrsus of thy leaves.

For thy sake, TOBACCO, I

Would do any thing but die, Scent to match thy rich perfume

And but seek to extend my days Chemic art did ne'er presume

Long enough to sing thy praise. Through her quaint alembic strain,

But, as she, who once hath been None so sov'reign to the brain.

A king's consort, is a queen Nature, that did in thee excel,

Ever after, nor will hate Framed again no second smell.

Any title of her state, Roses, violets, but toys

Though a widow, or divorced, For the smaller sort of boys,

So I, from thy converse forced, Or for the greener damsels meant;

The old name and style retain, Thou art the only manly scent.

A right Katherine of Spain;

And a seat, too, 'mongst the joys
Stinking'st of the stinking kind,

Of the blest Tobacco Boys;
Filth of the mouth and fog of the mind, Where, though I, by sour physician,
Africa, that brags her foyson,

Am debarr'd the full fruition
Breeds no such prodigious poison,

Of thy favours, I may catch Henbane, nightshade, both together, Some collateral sweets, and snatch Hemlock, aconite

Sidelong odours, that give life

Like glances from a neighbour's wife;
Nay, rather,

And still live in the bye-places
Plant divine, of rarest virtue;

And the suburbs of thy graces; Blisters on the tongue would hurt you. And in thy borders take delight, T was but in a sort I blamed thee;

An unconquer'd Canaanite. None e'er prosper'd who defamed thee;

CHARLES LAMA

« НазадПродовжити »