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This morning come, a self-invited guest,
To put your generous nature to the test,
And breakfast with you under your own vine.”
To which he answered: “Poor desert of mine,
Not your unkindness call it, for if aught
Is good in me of feeling or of thought,
From you it comes, and this last grace outweighs
All sorrows, all regrets of other days."
And after further compliment and talk,
Among the dahlias in the garden walk
He left his guests; and to his cottage turned,
And as he entered for a moment yearned
For the lost splendours of the days of old,
The ruby glass, the silver, and the gold,
And felt how piercing is the sting of pride,
By want embittered and intensified.
He looked about him for some means or way
To keep this unexpected holiday;
Searched every cupboard, and then searched again,
Summoned the maid, who came, but came in vain ;
“The Signor did not hunt to-day,” she said,
“There's nothing in the house but wine and bread."
Then suddenly the drowsy falcon shook
His little bells with that sagacious look,
Which said, as plain as language to the ear,
“If anything is wanting, I am here!”
Yes, everything is wanting, gallant bird !
The master seized thee without further word,
Like thine own lure, he whirled thee round; ah me!
The pomp and flutter of brave falconry,
The bells, the jesses, the bright scarlet hood,
The flight and the pursuit o'er field and wood,
All these for evermore are ended now;
No longer victor, but the victim thou !
Then on the board a snow-white cloth he spread,
Laid on its wooden dish the loaf of bread,
Brought purple grapes with autumn sunshine hot,
The fragrant peach, the juicy bergamot;
Then in the midst a flask of wine he placed,
And with autumnal flowers the banquet graced.
Ser Federigo, would not these suffice
Without thy falcon stuffed with cloves and spicei
When all was ready, and the courtly dame
With her companion to the cottage came,
Upon Ser Federigo's brain there fell
The wild enchantment of a magic spell;
The room they entered, mean and low and small,
Was changed into a sumptuous banquet-hall,
With fanfares by aërial trumpets blown;
The rustic chair she sat on was a throne;
He ate celestial food, and a divine
Flavour was given to his country wine,
And the poor falcon, fragrant with his spice,
A peacock was, or bird of paradise !
When the repast was ended, they arose
And passed again into the garden-close.
Then said the Lady, “Far too well I know,
Remembering still the days of long ago,
Though you betray it not, with what surprise
You see me here in this familiar wise.
You have no children, and you cannot guess
What anguish, what unspeakable distress
A mother feels, whose child is lying ill,
Nor how her heart anticipates his will.
And yet for this you see me lay aside
All womanly reserve and check of pride,
And ask the thing most precious in your sight,
Your falcon, your sole comfort and delight,
Which, if you find it in your heart to give,
My poor, unhappy boy perchance may live.”
Ser Federigo listens, and replies,
With tears of love and pity in his eyes :
“Alas, dear lady! there can be no task
So sweet to me, as giving when you ask.
One little hour ago, if I had known
This wish of yours, it would have been my own.
But thinking in what manner I could best
Do honour to the presence of my guest,
I deemed that nothing worthier could be
Than what most dear and precious was to me,
And so my gallant falcon breathed his last
To furnish forth this morning our repast."
In mute contrition, mingled with dismay,
The gentle lady turned her eyes away,
Grieving that he such sacrifice should make,
And kill his falcon for a woman's sake,
Yet feeling in her heart a woman's pride,
That nothing she could ask for was denied;
Then took her leave, and passed out at the gate
With footsteps slow, and soul disconsolate.
Three days went by, and lo! a passing-bell
Tolled from the little chapel in the dell;
Ten strokes Ser Federigo heard, and said,
Breathing a prayer, “ Alas! her child is dead !”
Three months went by, and lo! a merrier chime
Rang from the chapel bells at Christmas time;
The cottage was deserted, and no more
Ser Federigo sat beside its door,
But now, with servitors to do his will,
In the grand villa, half-way up the hill,
Sat at the Christmas feast, and at his side
· Monna Giovanna, his beloved bride,
Never so beautiful, so kind, so fair,
Enthroned once more in the old rustic chair,
High-perched upon the back of which there stood
The image of a falcon carved in wood,
And underneath the inscription, with a date,
“ All things come round to him who will but wait.”
Soon as the story reached its end, Fountain, I will not drink of thee!
One, over-eager to commend,
Nor were it grateful to forget,
Crowned it with injudicious praise ; That from these reservoirs and tanks
And then the voice of blame found vent, Even imperial Shakspeare drew
And fanned the embers of dissent His Moor of Venice and the Jew,
Into a somewhat lively blaze.
And Romeo and Juliet,
And many a famous comedy." The Theologian shook his head; “These old Italian tales," he said, Then a long pause ; till some one said, “From the much-praised Decameron “ An angel is flying overhead !" down
At these words spake the Spanish Jew, Through all the rabble of the rest, And murmured with an inward breath : Are either trifling dull, or lewd ; “God grant, if what you say is true, The gossip of a neighbourhood
It may not be the Angel of Death !"
In some remote provincial town,
A scandalous chronicle at best!
And then another pause; and then,
They seem to me a stagnant fen,
Stroking his beard, he said again : Grown rank with rushes and with reeds, “This brings back to my memory Where a white lily, now and then, A story in the Talmud told, Blooms in the midst of noxious weeds That book of gems, that book of gold, And deadly nightshade on its banks." Of wonders many and manifold, To this the Student straight replied: A tale that often comes to me, “For the white lily, many thanks! And fills my heart, and haunts my brain; One should not say, with too much pride, and never wearies nor grows old.”
THE LEGEND OF RABBI BEN LEVI.
RABBI BEN LEVI, on the Sabbath, read
A volume of the Law, in which it said,
“No man suall look upon my face and live.”
And as he read, he prayed that God would give
His faithful servant grace with mortal eye
To look upon His face and yet not die.
Then fell a sudden shadow on the page,
And, lifting up his eyes, grown dim with age,
He saw the Angel of Death before him stand,
Holding a naked sword in his right hand.
Rabbi Ben Levi was a righteous man,
Yet through his veins a chill of terror ran.
With trembling voice he said, “What wilt thou here?”
The Angel answered, “Lo! the time draws near
When thou must die; yet first, by God's decree,
Whate'er thou askest shall be granted thee."
Replied the Rabbi, “Let these living eyes
First look upon my place in Paradise."
Then said the Angel, “ Come with me and look."
Rabbi Ben Levi closed the sacred book,
And rising, and uplifting his grey head,
“Give me thy sword,” he to the Angel said,
“Lest thou shouldst fall upon me by the way.”
The Angel smiled and hastened to obey,
Then led him forth to the Celestial Town,
And set him on the wall, whence, gazing down,
Rabbi Ben Levi, with his living eyes,
Might look upon his place in Paradise.
Then straight into the city of the Lord
The Rabbi leaped with the Death-Angel's sword,
And through the streets there swept a sudden breath
Of something there unknown, which men call death.
Meanwhile the Angel stayed without, and cried,
“Come back!” To which the Rabbi's voice replied,
“No! in the name of God, whom I adore,
I swear that hence I will depart no more!"
Then all the Angels cried, “O Holy One,
See what the son of Levi here has done!
The kingdom of Heaven he takes by violence,
And in Thy name refuses to go hence!”
The Lord replied, “My Angels, be not wroth;
Did e'er the son of Levi break his oath?
Let him remain; for he with mortal eye
Shall look upon my face and yet not die."
Beyond the outer wall the Angel of Death
Heard the great voice, and said, with panting breath,
“Give back the sword, and let me go my way.”
Whereat the Rabbi paused, and answered, “Nay!
Anguish enough already has it caused
Among the sons of men.” And while he paused
He heard the awful mandate of the Lord
Resounding through the air, “Give back the sword !"
The Rabbi bowed his head in silent prayer;
Then said he to the dreadful Angel, “ Swear,
No human eye shall look on it again;
But when thou takest away the souls of men,
Thyself unseen, and with an unseen sword,
Thou wilt perform the bidding of the Lord.”
The Angel took the sword again, and swore,
And walks on earth unseen for evermore.
He ended : and a kind of spell
Upon the silent listeners fell.
His solemn manner and his words
Had touched the deep, mysterious
That vibrate in each human breast
Alike, but not alike confessed.
The spiritual world seemed near;
And close above them, full of fear,
Its awful adumbration passed,
A luminous shadow, vague and vast.
They almost feared to look, lest
Embodied from the impalpable air,
| They might bebold the Angel stand,
| Holding the sword in his right hand.
At last, but in a voice subdued,
Not to disturb their dreamy mood,
| Said the Sicilian : “While you spoke,
Telling your legend marvellous,
Suddenly in my memory woke
The thought of one, now gone from us,-
An old A bate, meek and mild,
My friend and teacher, when a child,
Who sometimes in those days of old
The legend of an Angel told,
| Which ran, if I remember, thus."
THE SICILIAN'S TALE.
KING ROBERT OF SICILY.
ROBERT of Sicily, brother of Pope Urbane
And Valmond, Emperor of Allemaine,
Apparelled in magnificent attire,
With retinue of many a knight and squire,