The Fraternal Duel
'Oh! hide me from the sun! I loath the sight!
I cannot bear his bright, obtrusive ray:
Nought is so dreadful to my gloom as light!
Nothing so dismal as the blaze of day!
No more may I its sparkling glories view!
No more its piercing lustre meet my eye!
On night's black wings my only comfort flew;
At breath of morn I sicken and I die.
Where can I fly? In what sequester'd clime
Does darkness ever hold her ebon reign?
Where woeful dirges measure out the time,
And endless echoes breathe the sullen strain.
Where dreary mountains rear their low'ring heads,
To pierce the heavy and umbrageous clouds;
And where the cavern dewy moisture sheds,
And night's thick veil the guilty mourner shrouds.
There, lost in horrors, I might vent my sighs;
To open misery myself resign;
Might snatch each torturing vision ere it flies,
And feast on prospects desolate as mine.
Oh! let me thither quickly take my flight,
And chuse a favourite and a final seat,
In scenes which would each gentler mind affright,
But for my guilt affords a fit retreat.
There, where no ray, no gleam of light could come,
There, and there only, could I find relief;
There might I ruminate on Edward's doom,
And lose myself in luxury of grief.
And, as it is, though joys around me shine,
Though pleasure here erects her dazzling brow,
Wrapt in despondence, will I droop and pine,
And tears of anguish shall for ever flow.
Oh Edward! could'st thou see this alter'd frame,
Which youthful graces lately did adorn!
Could'st thou behold, and think me still the same,
Thy once gay friend, thus hapless and forlorn?
The cheek, so late by ruddy health embrown'd,
Now pale and faded with incessant tears;
The eye, which once elate, disdain'd the ground,
Now sunk and languid in its orb appears.
Oh! never, never will I cease to grieve!
And sure repentance pardon may obtain!
Can woe unfeign'd incite heav'n to relieve
A wretch opprest with agonizing pain?
Ah no! my hands are stain'd with brother's blood!
A father's curses load my sinking head!
I wish to die, but dare not pass the flood,
For there, as well as here, my hopes are fled.
Sleep, which was meant to chase away the thought,
To lull the sound of dissonant despair,
Appears to me with added terrors fraught,
And my torn heart can find no refuge there.
If, for a moment, I its fetters wear,
And its soft pressure these pale eyes controul,
I injur'd Emma's just reproaches hear,
Or Edward's form appals my shrinking soul.
When in those transitory sleeps I lie,
I oft his beauteous, bleeding form review;
A mild, benignant lustre lights his eye,
As come to bid a friend a last adieu.
I start, I shudder at his tuneful voice,
When it, in soothing whispers, meets my ear;
That sound, which oft has made my heart rejoice,
I now all-trembling and affrighted hear.
Was it thy fault, dear, much-lamented youth
If lovely Emma did thy suit prefer?
She saw thee form'd of tenderness and truth,
And kings might glory to be lov'd by her.
Thy native sweetness won her artless heart;
And well our different characters she knew;
Whilst thy mild looks did happiness impart,
She saw the murderer in each glance I threw.
Yet for this, meanly, did I thee upbraid,
And basely urg'd an elder brother's right;
Then, calling impious passion to my aid,
Forc'd thee, unwilling, to the fatal fight.
Oh! ne'er shall I forget the dreadful hour,
I sheath'd my weapon in thy noble breast;
Thy dying hand clasp'd mine, with feeble pow'r,
And to thy mangled bosom fondly prest.
Whilst o'er thee, I, in speechless anguish hung,
Thou saw'st the wild distraction of my eye;
And, though the chills of death restrain'd thy tongue
Thy bosom heav'd a sympathetic sigh.
With cruel tenderness my friends contriv'd,
To bear me from the drear, polluted shore;
Of every joy, of peace itself depriv'd,
Which this despairing breast shall know no more.
Since this what frenzy has inspir'd my mind!
My tortur'd mem'ry cannot it retrace;
No relique now of former days I find,
But horrors, which e'en madness can't efface.
My dearest brother, and my tenderest friend,
O come, and save me from this dark abyss!
Draw hence the darts which my rack'd bosom rend!
And bear me with you to the realms of bliss!
Ah! whence that pang which smote my shuddering heart?
Where now, for refuge, can lost Anselm fly?
'Tis Death! I know him by his crimson dart!
And, am I fit? Oh heav'ns! I cannot die!
My spirit is not form'd for rapid flight;
It cannot cut the vast expanse of air,
No, never can it reach the realms of light,
For sin, a weight immoveable, lies there!'
Thus wretched Anselm rav'd: unhappy youth!
Though passion hurried thee so far astray,
Thy infant soul ador'd the God of Truth,
And virtue usher'd in thy vernal day.
Oh! had he learn'd his passions to restrain,
And let cool reason in his breast preside,
His op'ning wisdom had not bloom'd in vain,
Nor had he, ere the prime of manhood, died.
Yet, if remorse could expiate his guilt,
If the worst sufferings could the crime erase,
If tears could wash away the blood he spilt,
Then Anselm's penitence obtain'd him grace.
AUGUST 20, 1794.
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