He sat in silence on the ground,
The old and haughty Czar;
Lonely, tho’ princes girt him round,
And leaders of the war:
He had cast his jewell’d sabre,
That many a field had won,
To the earth beside his youthful dead,
His fair and first-born son.
With a robe of ermine for its bed,
Was laid that form of clay,
Where the light a stormy sunset shed,
Thro’ the rich tent made way:
And a sad and solemn beauty
On the pallid face came down,
Which the Lord of nations mutely watch’d,
In the dust, with his renown.
Low tones at last of wo and fear
From his full bosom broke;–
A mournful thing it was to hear
How then the proud man spoke!
The voice that thro’ the combat
Had shouted far and high,
Came forth in strange, dull, hollow tones,
Burden’d with agony.
‘There is no crimson on thy cheek,
And on thy lip no breath,
I call thee, and thou dost not speak–
They tell me this is death!
And fearful things are whispering
That I the deed have done–
For the honour of thy father’s name,
Look up, look up, my son!
‘Well might I know death’s hue and mien,
But on thine aspect, boy!
What, till this moment, have I seen
Save pride and tameless joy?
Swiftest thou wert to battle,
And bravest there of all–
How could I think a warrior’s frame
Thus like a flower should fall?
‘I will not bear that still, cold look–
Rise up, thou fierce and free!
Wake as the storm wakes! I will brook
All, save this calm, from thee!
Lift brightly up, and proudly,
Once more thy kindling eyes!
Hath my word lost its power on earth?
I say to thee, arise!
‘Didst thou not know I lov’d thee well?
Thou didst not! and art gone
In bitterness of soul, to dwell
Where man must dwell alone.
Come back, young fiery spirit!
If but one hour, to learn
The secrets of the folded heart,
That seem’d to thee so stern.
‘Thou wert the first, the first, fair child,
That in mine arms I press’d;
Thou wert the bright one, that hast smil’d
Like summer on my breast!
I rear’d thee as an eagle,
To the chase thy steps I led,
I bore thee on my battle-horse,
I look upon thee–dead!
‘Lay down my warlike banners here,
Never again to wave,
And bury my red sword and spear,
Chiefs! in my first-born’s grave!
And leave me!–I have conquer’d,
I have slain–my work is done!
Whom have I slain?–ye answer not–
Thou too art mute, my son!’
And thus his wild lament was pour’d
Thro’ the dark resounding night,
And the battle knew no more his sword,
Nor the foaming steed his might.
He heard strange voices moaning
In every wind that sigh’d;
From the searching stars of heaven he shrank–
Humbly the conqueror died.