The minstrel strikes his soft guitar,
With sad forebodings pale;
And fills with song the balmy air,
And thus resumes his tale:—
The pensive bird, compell'd to cower,
From day to day in Noufal's bower,
Tired of the scene, with pinions light,
Swift as the wind has urged its flight,
And, far from Noufal's wide domain,
Enjoys its liberty again;
Pouring aloud its sad complaint
In wildest mood without restraint.
And now remote from peopled town,
Midst tangled forest, parch'd and brown,
The maniac roams; with double speed
He goads along his snorting steed,
Till, in a grove, a sportsman's snare
Attracts his view, and, struggling there,
Its knotted meshes fast between,
Some newly-prison'd deer are seen;
And as the sportsman forward springs
To seize on one, and promptly brings
The fatal knife upon its neck,
His hand receives a sudden check;
And, looking upwards, with surprise,
(A mounted chief before his eyes!)
He stops—while thus exclaims the youth:—
“If e'er thy bosom throbb'd with ruth,
Forbear! for 'tis a crime to spill
A gazelle's blood—it bodeth ill;
Then set the pleading captive free;
For sweet is life and liberty.
That heart must be as marble hard,
And merciless as wolf or pard,
Which clouds in death that large black eye,
Beaming like Lailî's lovingly.
The cruel stroke, my friend, withhold;
Its neck deserves a string of gold.
Observe its slender limbs, the grace
And winning meekness of its face.
The musk-pod is its fatal dower,
Like beauty, still the prey of power;
And for that fragrant gift thou'rt led
The gentle gazelle's blood to shed!
O, seek not gain by cruel deed,
Nor let the innocent victim bleed.”
“But,” cried the sportsman, “these are mine;
I cannot at my task repine:
'Tis the sportsman's task, and free from blame,
To watch and snare the forest-game.”
Majnûn, upon this stern reply,
Alighted from his steed, and said–
“O, let them live! they must not die.
Forbear! and take this barb instead.”
The sportsman seized it eagerly,
And, laughing, from the greenwood sped.
Majnûn, delighted, view'd his purchased prize,
And in the gazelle's sees his Lailî's eyes;
But soon, freed from the snare, with nimble feet
The tremblers bound to some more safe retreat.
The simple maniac starts, and finds, amazed,
The vision vanish'd which his fancy raised.
                *      *      *      *      *
'Tis night—and darkness, black as Lailî's tresses,
Veils all around, and all his soul oppresses;
No lucid moon like Lailî's face appears;
No glimpse of light the gloomy prospect cheers:
In a rude cavern he despairing lies,
The tedious moments only mark'd with sighs.