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[" The Welsh Melodies, which first introduced Mrs Hemans to the public as a song-writer, had already made their appearance. Some of them are remarkable for the melody of their numbers-in particular, the song to the wellknown air, “ Ar hyd y nos." Her fine feeling for music, in which, as also in drawing, she would have signally excelled, could she have bestowed the time and patient labour requisite for obtaining mastery over the mechanical difficulties of these arts, assisted her not only in her choice of measures, but also of her words ; and, although in speaking of her songs, it must be remarked that some of the later ones are almost too full of meaning to require the further clothing of sweet sound,
instead of their being left, as in outline, waiting for the musician's ring hand, they must be all praised as flowing and expressive; and it is needless to remind the reader how many of them, united with her sister's music, have obtained the utmost popularity. She had well studied the national character of the Welslı airs, and the allusions to the legendary history of the ancient Britons, which her songs contain, are happily chosen. But it was an instinct with Mrs IIemans to catch the picturesque points of national character, as well as of national music : in the latter she always delighted.”—CHORLEY's Memorials of Mrs Ilemans, p. 80-1.]
THE VESPERS OF PALERMO.
A TRAGEDY, IN FIVE ACTS.
["Mrs Hemans was at this time (1821) occupied in the composition of her tragedy, 'The Vespers of Palermo,' which she originally wrote without any idea of offering it for the stage. The sanguine recommendations, however, of Mr Reginald Heber, and the equally kind encouragement of Mr Milman, (to whose correspondence she was introduced through the medium of a mutual friend, though she had never the advantage of his personal acquaintance,) induced her to venture upon a step which her own diffidence would have withheld her from contemplating, but for the support of such high literary authorities. Indeed, notwithstanding the flattering encomiums which were bestowed upon the tragedy by all who read it, and most especially by the critics of the green-room, whose imprimatur might have been supposed a sufficiently safe guarantee of success, her own anticipations, throughout the long period of suspense which intervened between its acceptance and representation, were far more modified than those of her friends. In this subdued tone of feeling she thus wrote to Mr Milman :- As I cannot help looking forward to the day of trial with much more of dread than of sanguine expectation, I most willingly acquiesce in your recommendations of delay, and shall rejoice in liaving the respite as much prolonged as possible. I begin almost to shudder at my own presumption, and, if it were not for the kind encouragement I have received from you and Mr Reginald Heber, should be much more anxiously occupied in searching for any outlet of escape, than in attempting to overcome the difficulties which seem to obstruct my onward path.'"-Memoir, p. 81-2.]
ALBERTI. ANSELMO, a Monk.
COUNT DI PROCIDA.
Nobles, Soldiers, Messengers, Vassals, Peasants, &c. &c. SCENE--Palermo.
SCENE I.-A Valley, with vineyards and cottages.
Groups of Peasants—PROCIDA, disguised us
a Pilgrim, among them.
1st Pea. Ay, this was wont to be a festal time In days gone by! I can remember well The old familiar melodies that rose At break of morn, from all our purple hills, To welcome in the vintage. Never since Hath music scem'd so sweet. But the light hearts Which to those measures beat so joyously, Are tamed to stillness now. There is no voice Of joy through all the land.
2d Pea. Yes! there are sounds Of revelry within the palaces, And the fair castles of our ancient lords, Where now the stranger banquets. Ye may hear From thence the peals of song and laughter rise At midnight's deepest hour.
3d Pea. Alas! we sat, In happier days, so peacefully beneath The olives and the vines our fathers rear'd, Encircled by our children, whose quick steps Flew by us in the dance! The time hath been When peace was in the hamlet, wheresoe'er The storm might gather. But this yoke of France Falls on the peasant's neck as heavily As on the crested chieftain's. We are bow'd E'en to the earth.
Pea.'s Child. My father, tell me when Shall the gay dance and song again resound Amidst our chestnut-woods, as in those days Of which thou 'rt wont to tell the joyous tale ? 1st Pea. When there are light and reckless
hearts once more In Sicily's green vales. Alas, my boy! Men meet not now to quaff the flowing bowl, To hear the mirthful song, and cast aside The weight of work-day care: they meet to speak Of wrongs and sorrows, and to whisper thoughts They dare not breathe aloud.
Pro. (from the background.) Ay, it is well
So to relieve th' o'erburthen'd heart, which pants
An Old Pea. What deep voice
1st Pea. It was our guest's, The stranger pilgrim who hath sojourn'd here Since yester-morn. Good neighbours, mark him
well : He hath a stately bearing, and an eye [accords Whose glance looks through the heart. His mien Ill with such vestments. How he folds around him His pilgrim-cloak, e'en as it were a robe Of knightly ermine! That commanding step Should have been used in courts and camps to
move. Mark him !
Old Pea. Nay, rather mark him not; the times Are fearful, and they teach the boldest hearts A cautious lesson. What should bring him here?
A Youth. He spoke of vengeance !
Old Pea. Peace! we are beset
Pro. (coming forward indignantly.)
thing! Whose very soul is moulded to the yoke, And stamp'd with servitude. What! is it life Thus at a breeze to start, to school thy voice Into low fearful whispers, and to cast Pale jealous looks around thee, lest, e'en then, Strangers should catch its echo ?- Is there aught In this so precious, that thy furrow'd cheek Is blanch'd with terror at the passing thought Of hazarding some few and evil days, Which drag thus poorly on?
Some of the Peas. Away, away! Leave us, for there is danger in thy presence. Pro. Why, what is danger? Are there decper
ills Than those ye bear thus calmly? Ye have drain'd The cup of bitterness till naught remains
To fear or shrink from—therefore, be ye strong!
(say on! A Youth (coming forward.) No, no! say on, There are still free and fiery hearts e'en here, That kindle at thy words.
Pea. If that indeed
Pro. There is hope
when our king,
Pea. Had we but arms and leaders, we are men Who might earn vengeance yet; but wanting these, What wouldst thou have us do?
Pro. Be vigilant; And when the signal wakes the land, arise ! The peasant's arm is strong, and there shall be A rich and noble harvest. Fare ye well.
[Exit PROCIDA. 1st Pea. This man should be a prophet : how
2d Pea. Speak low; I know him well.
Pea. And is this he?
1st Pea. He comes not thus
Vit. Have I not told thee, that I bear a heart Blighted and cold ?--Th' affections of my youth Lie slumbering in the grave; their fount is closed, And all the soft and playful tenderness Which hath its home in woman's breast, ere yet Deep wrongs have seard it--all is fled from mine. Urge me no more.
Eri. O lady! doth the flower That sleeps entomb'd through the long wintry
storms, Unfold its beauty to the breath of spring, And shall not woman's heart, from chill despair, Wake at love's voice ?
Vit. Love !-make love's name thy spell, And I am strong !-the very word calls up From the dark past, thoughts, feelings, powers,
Eri. Haughty dame !
Vit. Provençal, tell
That make.caith Paradise. I stand alone ;
Vit. Righteous heaven! the pledge — They that are blest may fear.
Amidst his people from the scaffold thrown Eri. Is there not one
By him who perish'd, and whose kingly blood Who ne'er commands in vain ? Proud lady, bend E'en yet is unatoned. My heart beats highThy spirit to thy fate ; for know that he,
--Oh, welcome, welcome ! thou art Procida, Whose car of triumph in its earthquake path, Th’ Avenger, the Deliverer ! O'er the bow'd neck of prostrate Sicily,
Pro. Call me so, Hath borne him to dominion; he, my king, When my great task is done. Yet who can tell Charles of Anjou, decrees thy hand the boon If the return'd be welcome? Many a heart My deeds have well deserved; and who hath power Is changed since last we met. Against his mandates ?
Vit. Why dost thou gaze,
With such a still and solemn earnestness,
Or the proud Eribert's triumphant bride,
Vit. Thou, Procida!
Pro. 'Tis enough.
Unsettled brightness of thy proud dark eye, To vigilant hatred oft, whose sleepless eye And in thy wasted form. Ay, 'tis a deep Still finds what most it seeks for. Fare thee well. And solemn joy, thus in thy looks to trace, - Look to it yet !-To-morrow I return.
Instead of youth's gay bloom, the characters
(Exit ERIBERT. Of noble suffering : on thy brow the same Vit. To-morrow !-Some ere now have slept Commanding spirit holds its native state, and dreamt
Which could not stoop to vileness. Yet the voice Of morrows which ne'er dawn'd-or ne'er for them; Of Fame hath told afar, that thou shouldst wed So silently their deep and still repose
This tyrant Eribert. Hath melted into death! Are there not balms Vit. And told it not In nature's boundless realm, to pour out sleep A tale of insolent love repelld with scornLike this on me? Yet should my spirit still Of stern commands and fearful menaces Endure its earthly bonds, till it could bear Met with indignant courage ? Procida ! To his a glorious tale of his own isle, (work, It was but now that haughtily I braved Free and avenged.—Thou shouldst be now at His sovereign's mandate, which decrees my hand, In wrath, my native Etna ! who dost lift
With its fair appanage of wide domains Thy spiry pillar of dark smoke so high, [still, And wealthy vassals, a most fitting boon, Through the red heaven of sunset !--sleep'st thou To recompense his crimes. -Ismiled—ay, smiledWith all thy founts of fire, while spoilers tread In proud security; for the high of heart The glowing vales beneath?
Have still a pathway to escape disgrace, [Procida enters, disguised. Though it be dark and lone.
Ha! who art thou, Pro. Thou shalt not need Unbidden guest, that with so mute a step
To tread its shadowy mazes. Trust my words : Dost steal upon me?
I tell thee that a spirit is abroad Pro. One o'er whom hath pass'd
Which will not slumber, till its path be traced All that can change man's aspect! Yet not long By deeds of fearful fame. Vittoria, live ! Shalt thou find safety in forgetfulness.
It is most meet that thou shouldst live, to see I am he, to breathe whose name is perilous, The mighty expiation ; for thy heart Unless thy wealth could bribe the winds to silence. (Forgive me that I wrong'd its faith!) hath nursed -Know'st thou this, lady? [IIe shows a ring. A high, majestic grief, whose seal is set
Deep on thy marble brow.
Vit. Then thou canst tell By gazing on the wither'd rose, that there Time, or the blight, hath work'd! Ay, this is in Thy vision's scope : but oh ! the things unseen, Untold, undreamt of, which like shadows pass Hourly o'er that mysterious world, a mind To ruin struck by grief! Yet doth my soul, Far midst its darkness, nurse one soaring hope, Wherein is bright vitality. 'Tis to see His blood avenged, and his fair heritage, My beautiful native land, in glory risen, Like a warrior from his slumbers !
Pro. Hear'st thou not With what a deep and ominous moan the voice Of our great mountain swells? There will be soon A fearful burst! Vittoria ! brood no more In silence o'er thy sorrows, but go forth Amidst thy vassals, (yet be secret still,) And let thy breath give nurture to the spark Thou’lt find already kindled. I move on In shadow, yet awakening in my path That which shall startle nations. Fare thee well. Vit. When shall we meet again ?-Are we not those
[not Whom most he loved on earth, and think'st thou That love e'en yet shall bring his spirit near, While thus we hold communion ?
Pro. Yes, I feel Its breathing influence whilst I look on thee, Who wert its light in life. Yet will we not Make womanish tears our offering on his tomb; He shall have nobler tribute !-I must hence, But thou shalt soon hear more. Await the time.
Lies pale around; and life's realities
Con. I know thy grief,
Raim, Waste not thou thy prayers, O gentle love! for them. There's little necd For pity, though the galling chain be worn By some few slaves the less. Let them depart! There is a world beyond the oppressor's reach, And thither lies their way.
Con. Alas! I see That some new wrong hath pierced you to the soul.
Raim. Pardon, beloved Constance, if my words, From feelings hourly stung, have caught, perchance, A tone of bitterness. Oh! when thine eyes, With their sweet eloquent thoughtfulness, are fix’d Thus tenderly on mine, I should forget All else in their soft beams; and yet I came To tell thee
Con. What? What wouldst thou say? Oh speak! Thou wouldst not leave me !
Raim. I have cast a cloud, The shadow of dark thoughts and ruin'd fortunes, O'er thy bright spirit. Haply, were I gone, Thou wouldst resume thyself, and dwell once more In the clear sunny light of youth and joy, E'en as before we met-before we loved ! Con. This is but mockery. Well thou know'st
Raim. Oh ! thou hast deserved
SCENE III.-The Sea-shore.
RAIMOND DI PROCIDA, CONSTANCE.
Con. There is a shadow far within your eye, Which hath of late been deepening. You were
wont, Upon the clearness of your open brow, To wear a brighter spirit, shedding round Joy like our southern sun. It is not well, If some dark thought be gathering o'er your soul, To hide it from affection. Why is this? My Raimond, why is this?
Raim. Oh ! from the dreams Of youth, sweet Constance, hath not manhood still A wild and stormy wakening? They departLight after light, our glorious visions fade, The vaguely beautiful! till earth, unveild,