William Wordsworth

The Russian Fugitive

I Enoguh of rose-bud lips, and eyes Like harebells bathed in dew, Of cheek that with carnation vies, And veins of violet hue; Earth wants not beauty that may scorn A likening to frail flowers; Yea, to the stars, if they were born For seasons and for hours. Through Moscow's gates, with gold unbarred, Stepped One at dead of night, Whom such high beauty could not guard From meditated blight; By stealth she passed, and fled as fast As doth the hunted fawn, Nor stopped, till in the dappling east Appeared unwelcome dawn. Seven days she lurked in brake and field, Seven nights her course renewed, Sustained by what her scrip might yield, Or berries of the wood; At length, in darkness travelling on, When lowly doors were shut, The haven of her hope she won, Her foster-mother's hut. "To put your love to dangerous proof I come," said she, "from far; For I have left my Father's roof, In terror of the czar." No answer did the Matron give, No second look she cast, But hung upon the fugitive, Embracing and embraced. She led the Lady to a seat Beside the glimmering fire, Bathed duteously her wayworn feet, Prevented each desire:--- The cricket chirped, the house-dog dozed, And on that simple bed, Where she in childhood had reposed, Now rests her weary head. When she, whose couch had been the sod, Whose curtain, pine or thorn, Had breathed a sigh of thanks to God, Who comforts the forlorn; While over her the Matron bent Sleep sealed her eyes, and stole Feeling from limbs with travel spent, And trouble from the soul. Refreshed, the Wanderer rose at morn, And soon again was dight In those unworthy vestments worn Through long and perilous flight; And "O beloved Nurse," she said, "My thanks with silent tears Have unto Heaven and You been paid: Now listen to my fears ! "Have you forgot"---and here she smiled--- "The babbling flatteries You lavished on me when a child Disporting round your knees? I was your lambkin, and your bird, Your star, your gem, your flower; Light words, that were more lightly heard In many a cloudless hour! "The blossom you so fondly praised Is come to bitter fruit; A mighty One upon me gazed; I spurned his lawless suit, And must be hidden from his wrath: You, Foster-father dear, Will guide me in my forward path; I may not tarry here! "I cannot bring to utter woe Your proved fidelity."--- "Dear Child, sweet Mistress, say not so! For you we both would die." "Nay, nay, I come with semblance feigned And cheek embrowned by art; Yet, being inwardly unstained, With courage will depart." "But whither would you, could you, flee? A poor Man's counsel take; The Holy Virgin gives to me A thought for your dear sake; Rest, shielded by our Lady's grace, And soon shall you be led Forth to a safe abiding-place, Where never foot doth tread." II THE dwelling of this faithful pair In a straggling village stood, For One who breathed unquiet air A dangerous neighbourhood; But wide around lay forest ground With thickets rough and blind; And pine-trees made a heavy shade Impervious to the wind. And there, sequestered from the eight, Was spread a treacherous swamp, On which the noonday sun shed light As from a lonely lamp; And midway in the unsafe morass, A single Island rose Of firm dry ground, with healthful grass Adorned, and shady boughs. The Woodman knew, for such the craft This Russian vassal plied, That never fowler's gun, nor shaft Of archer, there was tried; A sanctuary seemed the spot From all intrusion free; And there he planned an artful Cot For perfect secrecy. With earnest pains unchecked by dread Of Power's far-stretching hand, The bold good Man his labor sped At nature's pure command; Heart-soothed, and busy as a wren, While, in a hollow nook, She moulds her sight-eluding den Above a murmuring brook. His task accomplished to his mind, The twain ere break of day Creep forth, and through the forest wind Their solitary way; Few words they speak, nor dare to slack Their pace from mile to mile, Till they have crossed the quaking marsh, And reached the lonely Isle. The sun above the pine-trees showed A bright and cheerful face; And Ina looked for her abode, The promised hiding-place; She sought in vain, the Woodman smiled; No threshold could be seen, Nor roof, nor window;√Ďall seemed wild As it had ever been. Advancing, you might guess an hour, The front with such nice care Is masked, 'if house it be or bower,' But in they entered are; As shaggy as were wall and roof With branches intertwined, So smooth was all within, air-proof, And delicately lined: And hearth was there, and maple dish, And cups in seemly rows, And couch---all ready to a wish For nurture or repose; And Heaven doth to her virtue grant That here she may abide In solitude, with every want By cautious love supplied. No queen, before a shouting crowd, Led on in bridal state, E'er struggled with a heart so proud, Entering her palace gate: Rejoiced to bid the world farewell, No saintly anchoress E'er took possession of her cell With deeper thankfulness. "Father of all, upon thy care And mercy am I thrown; Be thou my safeguard!"---such her prayer When she was left alone, Kneeling amid the wilderness When joy had passed away, And smiles, fond efforts of distress To hide what they betray! The prayer is heard, the Saints have seen, Diffused through form and face, Resolves devotedly serene; That monumental grace Of Faith, which doth all passions tame That Reason should control; And shows in the untrembling frame A statue of the soul. III 'TIS sung in ancient minstrelsy That Phoebus wont to wear The leaves of any pleasant tree Around his golden hair; Till Daphne, desperate with pursuit Of his imperious love, At her own prayer transformed, took root, A laurel in the grove. Then did the Penitent adorn His brow with laurel green; And 'mid his bright locks never shorn No meaner leaf was seen; And poets sage, through every age, About their temples wound The bay; and conquerors thanked the Gods, With laurel chaplets crowned, Into the mists of fabling Time So far runs back the praise Of Beauty, that disdains to climb Along forbidden ways; That scorns temptation; power defies Where mutual love is not; And to the tomb for rescue flies When life would be a blot. To this fair Votaress, a fate More mild doth Heaven ordain Upon her Island desolate; And word, not breathed in vain, Might tell what intercourse she found, Her silence to endear; What birds she tamed, what flowers the ground Sent forth her peace to cheer. To one mute Presence, above all, Her soothed affections clung, A picture on the cabin wall By Russian usage hung--- The Mother-maid, whose countenance bright With love abridged the day; And, communed with by taper light, Chased spectral fears away. And oft as either Guardian came, The joy in that retreat Might any common friendship shame, So high their heart would beat; And to the lone Recluse, whate'er They brought, each visiting Was like the crowding of the year With a new burst of spring. But, when she of her Parents thought, The pang was hard to bear; And, if with all things not enwrought, That trouble still is near. Before her flight she had not dared Their constancy to prove, Too much the heroic Daughter feared The weakness of their love. Dark is the past to them, and dark The future still must be, Till pitying Saints conduct her bark Into a safer sea--- Or gentle Nature close her eyes, And set her Spirit free From the altar of this sacrifice, In vestal purity. Yet, when above the forest-glooms The white swans southward passed, High as the pitch of their swift plume Her fancy rode the blast; And bore her toward the fields of France Her Father's native land, To mingle in the rustic dance, The happiest of the band! Of those beloved fields she oft Had heard her Father tell In phrase that now with echoes soft Haunted her lonely cell; She saw the hereditary bowers, She heard the ancestral stream; The Kremlin and its haughty towers Forgotten like a dream ! IV THE ever-changing Moon had traced Twelve times her monthly round, When through the unfrequented Waste Was heard a startling sound; A shout thrice sent from one who chased At speed a wounded deer, Bounding through branches interlaced, And where the wood was clear. The fainting creature took the marsh, And toward the Island fled, While plovers screamed with tumult harsh Above his antlered head; This, Ina saw; and, pale with fear, Shrunk to her citadel; The desperate deer rushed on, and near The tangled covert fell. Across the marsh, the game in view, The Hunter followed fast, Nor paused, till o'er the stag he blew A death-proclaiming blast; Then, resting on her upright mind, Came forth the Maid---"In me Behold," she said, " a stricken Hind Pursued by destiny! "From your deportment, Sir! I deem That you have worn a sword, And will not hold in light esteem A suffering woman's word; There is my covert, there perchance I might have lain concealed, My fortunes hid, my countenance Not even to you revealed. "Tears might be shed, and I might pray, Crouching and terrified, That what has been unveiled to day, You would in mystery hide; But I will not defile with dust The knee that bend to adore The God in heaven;---attend, be just; This ask I, and no more! "I speak not of the winter's cold, For summer's heat exchanged, While I have lodged in this rough hold, From social life estranged; Nor yet of trouble and alarms: High Heaven is my defence; And every season has soft arms For injured Innocence. "From Moscow to the Wilderness It was my choice to come, Lest virtue should be harborless, And honor want a home; And happy were I, if the Czar Retain his lawless will, To end life here like this poor deer, Or a lamb on a green hill." "Are you the Maid," the Stranger cried, "From Gallic parents sprung, Whose vanishing was rumored wide, Sad theme for every tongue; Who foiled an Emperor's eager quest? You, Lady, forced to wear These rude habiliments, and rest Your head in this dark lair!" But wonder, pity, soon were quelled; And in her face and mien The soul's pure brightness she beheld Without a veil between: He loved, he hoped,---a holy flame Kindled 'mid rapturous tears; The passion of a moment came As on the wings of years. "Such bounty is no gift of chance," Exclaimed he; "righteous Heaven, Preparing your deliverance, To me the charge hath given. The Czar full oft in words, and deeds Is stormy and self-willed; But, when the Lady Catherine pleads, His violence is stilled. "Leave open to my wish the course, And I to her will go; From that humane and heavenly source, Good, only good, can flow.'' Faint sanction given, the Cavalier Was eager to depart, Though question followed question, dear To the Maiden's filial heart. Light was his step,---his hopes, more light, Kept pace with his desires; And the fifth morning gave him sight Of Moscow's glittering spires. He sued:---heart-smitten by the wrong, To the lorn Fugitive The Emperor sent a pledge as strong As sovereign power could give. O more than mighty change! If e'er Amazement rose to pain, And joy's excess produced a fear Of something void and vain; 'Twas when the Parents, who had mourned So long the lost as dead, Beheld their only Child returned, The household floor to tread. Soon gratitude gave way to love Within the Maiden's breast: Delivered and Deliverer move In bridal garments drest; Meek Catherine had her own reward; The Czar bestowed a dower; And universal Moscow shared The triumph of that hour. Flowers strewed the ground; the nuptial feast Was held with costly state; And there, 'mid many a noble guest, The foster-parent sate; Encouraged by the imperial eye, They shrank not into shade; Great as their bliss, the honor high To them and nature paid!

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