The Fountain of Bakhchisarai

Search on this Page:



A Tale of the Tauride

(1824)


Mute sat Giray, with downcast eye, As though some spell in sorrow bound him, His slavish courtiers thronging nigh, In sad expectance stood around him. The lips of all had silence sealed, Whilst, bent on him, each look observant, Saw grief's deep trace and passion fervent Upon his gloomy brow revealed. But the proud Khan his dark eye raising, And on the courtiers fiercely gazing, Gave signal to them to begone! The chief, unwitnessed and alone, Now yields him to his bosom's smart, Deeper upon his brow severe Is traced the anguish of his heart; As full fraught clouds on mirrors clear Reflected terrible appear!

What fills that haughty soul with pain? What thoughts such madd'ning tumults cause? With Russia plots he war again? Would he to Poland dictate laws? Say, is the sword of vengeance glancing? Does bold revolt claim nature's right? Do realms oppressed alarm excite? Or sabres of fierce foes advancing? Ah no! no more his proud steed prancing Beneath him guides the Khan to war,-- Such thoughts his mind has banished far.

Has treason scaled the harem's wall, Whose height might treason's self appal, And slavery's daughter fled his power, To yield her to the daring Giaour?

No! pining in his harem sadly, No wife of his would act so madly; To wish or think they scarcely dare; By wretches, cold and heartless, guarded, Hope from each breast so long discarded; Treason could never enter there. Their beauties unto none revealed, They bloom within the harem's towers, As in a hot-house bloom the flowers Which erst perfumed Arabia's field. To them the days in sameness dreary, And months and years pass slow away, In solitude, of life grown weary, Well pleased they see their charms decay. Each day, alas! the past resembling, Time loiters through their halls and bowers; In idleness, and fear, and trembling, The captives pass their joyless hours. The youngest seek, indeed, reprieve Their hearts in striving to deceive Into oblivion of distress, By vain amusements, gorgeous dress, Or by the noise of living streams, In soft translucency meand'ring, To lose their thoughts in fancy's dreams, Through shady groves together wand'ring. But the vile eunuch too is there, In his base duty ever zealous, Escape is hopeless to the fair From ear so keen and eye so jealous. He ruled the harem, order reigned Eternal there; the trusted treasure He watched with loyalty unfeigned, His only law his chieftain's pleasure, Which as the Koran he maintained. His soul love's gentle flame derides, And like a statue he abides Hatred, contempt, reproaches, jests, Nor prayers relax his temper rigid, Nor timid sighs from tender breasts, To all alike the wretch is frigid. He knows how woman's sighs can melt, Freeman and bondman he had felt Her art in days when he was younger; Her silent tear, her suppliant look, Which once his heart confiding shook, Now move not,--he believes no longer!

When, to relieve the noontide heat, The captives go their limbs to lave, And in sequestered, cool retreat Yield all their beauties to the wave, No stranger eye their charms may greet, But their strict guard is ever nigh, Viewing with unimpassioned eye These beauteous daughters of delight; He constant, even in gloom of night, Through the still harem cautious stealing, Silent, o'er carpet-covered floors, And gliding through half-opened doors, From couch to couch his pathway feeling, With envious and unwearied care Watching the unsuspecting fair; And whilst in sleep unguarded lying, Their slightest movement, breathing, sighing, He catches with devouring ear. O! curst that moment inauspicious Should some loved name in dreams be sighed, Or youth her unpermitted wishes To friendship venture to confide.

* * *

What pang is Giray's bosom tearing? Extinguished is his loved chubouk,[1] Whilst or to move or breathe scarce daring, The eunuch watches every look; Quick as the chief, approaching near him, Beckons, the door is open thrown, And Giray wanders through his harem Where joy to him no more is known. Near to a fountain's lucid waters Captivity's unhappy daughters The Khan await, in fair array, Around on silken carpets crowded, Viewing, beneath a heaven unclouded, With childish joy the fishes play And o'er the marble cleave their way, Whose golden scales are brightly glancing, And on the mimic billows dancing. Now female slaves in rich attire Serve sherbet to the beauteous fair, Whilst plaintive strains from viewless choir Float sudden on the ambient air.

TARTAR SONG.

I.

Heaven visits man with days of sadness, Embitters oft his nights with tears; Blest is the Fakir who with gladness Views Mecca in declining years.

II.

Blest he who sees pale Death await him On Danube's ever glorious shore; The girls of Paradise shall greet him, And sorrows ne'er afflict him more.

III.

But he more blest, O beauteous Zarem! Who quits the world and all its woes, To clasp thy charms within the harem, Thou lovelier than the unplucked rose!

They sing, but-where, alas! is Zarem, Love's star, the glory of the harem? Pallid and sad no praise she hears, Deaf to all sounds of joy her ears, Downcast with grief, her youthful form Yields like the palm tree to the storm, Fair Zarem's dreams of bliss are o'er, Her loved Giray loves her no more!

He leaves thee! yet whose charms divine Can equal, fair Grusinian! thine? Shading thy brow, thy raven hair Its lily fairness makes more fair; Thine eyes of love appear more bright Than noonday's beam, more dark than night; Whose voice like thine can breathe of blisses, Filling the heart with soft desire? Like thine, ah! whose inflaming kisses Can kindle passion's wildest fire?

Who that has felt thy twining arms Could quit them for another's charms? Yet cold, and passionless, and cruel, Giray can thy vast love despise, Passing the lonesome night in sighs Heaved for another; fiercer fuel Burns in his heart since the fair Pole Is placed within the chief's control.

The young Maria recent war Had borne in conquest from afar; Not long her love-enkindling eyes Had gazed upon these foreign skies; Her aged father's boast and pride, She bloomed in beauty by his side; Each wish was granted ere expressed. She to his heart the object dearest, His sole desire to see her blessed; As when the skies from clouds are clearest, Still from her youthful heart to chase Her childish sorrows his endeavour, Hoping in after life that never Her woman's duties might efface Remembrance of her earlier hours, But oft that fancy would retrace Life's blissful spring-time decked in flowers. Her form a thousand charms unfolded, Her face by beauty's self was moulded, Her dark blue eyes were full of fire,-- All nature's stores on her were lavished; The magic harp with soft desire, When touched by her, the senses ravished. Warriors and knights had sought in vain Maria's virgin heart to move, And many a youth in secret pain Pined for her in despairing love. But love she knew not, in her breast Tranquil it had not yet intruded, Her days in mirth, her nights in rest, In her paternal halls secluded, Passed heedless, peace her bosom's guest.

That time is past! The Tartar's force Rushed like a torrent o'er her nation,-- Rages less fierce the conflagration Devouring harvests in its course,-- Poland it swept with devastation, Involving all in equal fate, The villages, once mirthful, vanished, From their red ruins joy was banished, The gorgeous palace desolate! Maria is the victor's prize;-- Within the palace chapel laid, Slumb'ring among th'illustrious dead, In recent tomb her father lies; His ancestors repose around, Long freed from life and its alarms; With coronets and princely arms Bedecked their monuments abound! A base successor now holds sway,-- Maria's natal halls his hand Tyrannic rules, and strikes dismay And wo throughout the ravaged land.

Alas! the Princess sorrow's chalice Is fated to the dregs to drain, Immured in Bakchesaria's palace She sighs for liberty in vain; The Khan observes the maiden's pain, His heart is at her grief afflicted, His bosom strange emotions fill, And least of all Maria's will Is by the harem's laws restricted. The hateful guard, of all the dread, Learns silent to respect and fear her, His eye ne'er violates her bed, Nor day nor night he ventures near her; To her he dares not speak rebuke, Nor on her cast suspecting look. Her bath she sought by none attended, Except her chosen female slave, The Khan to her such freedom gave; But rarely he himself offended By visits, the desponding fair, Remotely lodged, none else intruded; It seemed as though some jewel rare, Something unearthly were secluded, And careful kept untroubled there.

Within her chamber thus secure, By virtue guarded, chaste and pure, The lamp of faith, incessant burning, The VIRGIN'S image blest illumed, The comfort of the spirit mourning And trust of those to sorrow doomed. The holy symbol's face reflected The rays of hope in splendour bright, And the rapt soul by faith directed To regions of eternal light. Maria, near the VIRGIN kneeling, In silence gave her anguish way, Unnoticed by the crowd unfeeling, And whilst the rest, or sad or gay, Wasted in idleness the day, The sacred image still concealing, Before it pouring forth her prayer, She watched with ever jealous care; Even as our hearts to error given, Yet lighted by a spark from heaven, Howe'er from virtue's paths we swerve, One holy feeling still preserve.

* * *

Now night invests with black apparel Luxurious Tauride's verdant fields, Whilst her sweet notes from groves of laurel The plaintive Philomela yields. But soon night's glorious queen, advancing Through cloudless skies to the stars' song, Scatters the hills and dales along, The lustre of her rays entrancing. In Bakchesaria's streets roamed free The Tartars' wives in garb befitting, They like unprisoned shades were flitting From house to house their friends to see, And while the evening hours away In harmless sports or converse gay. The inmates of the harem slept;-- Still was the palace, night impending O'er all her silent empire kept; The eunuch guard, no more offending The fair ones by his presence, now Slumbered, but fear his soul attending Troubled his rest and knit his brow; Suspicion kept his fancy waking, And on his mind incessant preyed, The air the slightest murmur breaking Assailed his ear with sounds of dread. Now, by some noise deceitful cheated, Starts from his sleep the timid slave, Listens to hear the noise repeated, But all is silent as the grave, Save where the fountains softly sounding Break from their marble prisons free, Or night's sweet birds the scene surrounding Pour forth their notes of melody: Long does he hearken to the strain, Then sinks fatigued in sleep again.

Luxurious East! how soft thy nights, What magic through the soul they pour! How fruitful they of fond delights To those who Mahomet adore! What splendour in each house is found, Each garden seems enchanted ground; Within the harem's precincts quiet Beneath fair Luna's placid ray, When angry feelings cease to riot There love inspires with softer sway!

* * *

The women sleep;--but one is there Who sleeps not; goaded by despair Her couch she quits with dread intent, On awful errand is she bent; Breathless she through the door swift flying Passes unseen; her timid feet Scarce touch the floor, she glides so fleet. In doubtful slumber restless lying The eunuch thwarts the fair one's path, Ah! who can speak his bosom's wrath? False is the quiet sleep would throw Around that gray and care-worn brow; She like a spirit vanished by Viewless, unheard as her own sigh!

* * *

The door she reaches, trembling opes, Enters, and looks around with awe, What sorrows, anguish, terrors, hopes, Rushed through her heart at what she saw! The image of the sacred maid, The Christian's matron, reigning there, And cross attracted first the fair, By the dim lamp-light scarce displayed! Oh! Grusinka, of earlier days The vision burst upon thy soul, The tongue long silent uttered praise, The heart throbs high, but sin's control Cannot escape, 'tis passion, passion sways!

The Princess in a maid's repose Slumbered, her cheek, tinged like the rose, By feverish thought, in beauty blooms, And the fresh tear that stains her face A smile of tenderness illumes. Thus cheers the moon fair Flora's race, When by the rain opprest they lie The charm and grief of every eye! It seemed as though an angel slept From heaven descended, who, distressed, Vented the feelings of his breast, And for the harem's inmates wept! Alas! poor Zarem, wretched fair, By anguish urged to mere despair, On bended knee, in tone subdued And melting strain, for pity sued.

"Oh! spurn not such a suppliant's prayer!" Her tones so sad, her sighs so deep, Startled the Princess in her sleep; Wond'ring, she views with dread before her The stranger beauty, frighted hears For mercy her soft voice implore her, Raises her up with trembling hand, And makes of her the quick demand, "Who speaks? in night's still hour alone, Wherefore art here?" "A wretched one, To thee I come," the fair replied, "A suitor not to be denied; Hope, hope alone my soul sustains; Long have I happiness enjoyed, And lived from sorrow free and care, But now, alas! a prey to pains And terrors, Princess hear my prayer, Oh! listen, or I am destroyed!

Not here beheld I first the light, Far hence my native land, but yet Alas! I never can forget Objects once precious to my sight; Well I remember towering mountains, Snow-ridged, replete with boiling fountains, Woods pervious scarce to wolf or deer, Nor faith, nor manners such as here; But, by what cruel fate o'ercome, How I was snatched, or when, from home I know not,--well the heaving ocean Do I remember, and its roar, But, ah! my heart such wild commotion As shakes it now ne'er felt before. I in the harem's quiet bloomed, Tranquil myself, waiting, alas! With willing heart what love had doomed; Its secret wishes came to pass: Giray his peaceful harem sought, For feats of war no longer burned, Nor, pleased, upon its horrors thought, To these fair scenes again returned.

"Before the Khan with bosoms beating We stood, timid my eyes I raised, When suddenly our glances meeting, I drank in rapture as I gazed; He called me to him,--from that hour We lived in bliss beyond the power Of evil thought or wicked word, The tongue of calumny unheard, Suspicion, doubt, or jealous fear, Of weariness alike unknown, Princess, thou comest a captive here, And all my joys are overthrown, Giray with sinful passion burns, His soul possessed of thee alone, My tears and sighs the traitor spurns; No more his former thoughts, nor feeling For me now cherishes Giray, Scarce his disgust, alas! concealing, He from my presence hastes away. Princess, I know the fault not thine That Giray loves thee, oh! then hear A suppliant wretch, nor spurn her prayer!

Throughout the harem none but thou Could rival beauties such as mine Nor make him violate his vow; Yet, Princess! in thy bosom cold The heart to mine left thus forlorn, The love I feel cannot be told, For passion, Princess, was I born. Yield me Giray then; with these tresses Oft have his wandering fingers played, My lips still glow with his caresses, Snatched as he sighed, and swore, and prayed, Oaths broken now so often plighted! Hearts mingled once now disunited! His treason I cannot survive; Thou seest I weep, I bend my knee, Ah! if to pity thou'rt alive, My former love restore to me. Reply not! thee I do not blame, Thy beauties have bewitched Giray, Blinded his heart to love and fame, Then yield him up to me, I pray, Or by contempt, repulse, or grief, Turn from thy love th'ungenerous chief! Swear by thy _faith_, for what though mine Conform now to the Koran's laws, Acknowledged here within the harem, Princess, my mother's faith was thine, By that faith swear to give to Zarem Giray unaltered, as he was! But listen! the sad prey to scorn If I must live, Princess, have care, A dagger still doth Zarem wear,-- I near the Caucasus was born!"

She spake, then sudden disappeared, And left the Princess in dismay, Who scarce knew what or why she feared; Such words of passion till that day She ne'er had heard. Alas! was she To be the ruthless chieftain's prey? Vain was all hope his grasp to flee. Oh! God, that in some dungeon's gloom Remote, forgotten, she had lain, Or that it were her blessed doom To 'scape dishonour, life, and pain! How would Maria with delight This world of wretchedness resign; Vanished of youth her visions bright, Abandoned she to fates malign! Sinless she to the world was given, And so remains, thus pure and fair, Her soul is called again to heaven, And angel joys await it there!

* * *

Days passed away; Maria slept Peaceful, no cares disturbed her, now,-- From earth the orphan maid was swept. But who knew when, or where, or how? If prey to grief or pain she fell, If slain or heaven-struck, who can tell? She sleeps; her loss the chieftain grieves, And his neglected harem leaves, Flies from its tranquil precincts far, And with his Tartars takes the field, Fierce rushes mid the din of war, And brave the foe that does not yield, For mad despair hath nerved his arm, Though in his heart is grief concealed, With passion's hopeless transports warm. His blade he swings aloft in air And wildly brandishes, then low It falls, whilst he with pallid stare Gazes, and tears in torrents flow.

His harem by the chief deserted, In foreign lands he warring roved, Long nor in wish nor thought reverted To scene once cherished and beloved. His women to the eunuch's rage Abandoned, pined and sank in age; The fair Grusinian now no more Yielded her soul to passion's power, Her fate was with Maria's blended, On the same night their sorrows ended; Seized by mute guards the hapless fair Into a deep abyss they threw,-- If vast her crime, through love's despair, Her punishment was dreadful too!

At length th'exhausted Khan returned, Enough of waste his sword had dealt, The Russian cot no longer burned, Nor Caucasus his fury felt. In token of Maria's loss A marble fountain he upreared In spot recluse;--the Christian's cross Upon the monument appeared, (Surmounting it a crescent bright, Emblem of ignorance and night!) Th'inscription mid the silent waste Not yet has time's rude hand effaced, Still do the gurgling waters pour Their streams dispensing sadness round, As mothers weep for sons no more, In never-ending sorrows drowned. In morn fair maids, (and twilight late,) Roam where this monument appears, And pitying poor Maria's fate Entitle it the FOUNT OF TEARS!

* * *

My native land abandoned long, I sought this realm of love and song. Through Bakchesaria's palace wandered, Upon its vanished greatness pondered; All silent now those spacious halls, And courts deserted, once so gay With feasters thronged within their walls, Carousing after battle fray. Even now each desolated room And ruined garden luxury breathes, The fountains play, the roses bloom, The vine unnoticed twines its wreaths, Gold glistens, shrubs exhale perfume. The shattered casements still are there Within which once, in days gone by, Their beads of amber chose the fair, And heaved the unregarded sigh; The cemetery there I found, Of conquering khans the last abode, Columns with marble turbans crowned Their resting-place the traveller showed, And seemed to speak fate's stern decree, "As they are now such all shall be!" Where now those chiefs? the harem where? Alas! how sad scene once so fair! Now breathless silence chains the air! But not of this my mind was full, The roses' breath, the fountains flowing, The sun's last beam its radiance throwing Around, all served my heart to lull Into forgetfulness, when lo! A maiden's shade, fairer than snow, Across the court swift winged its flight;-- Whose shade, oh friends! then struck my sight? Whose beauteous image hovering near Filled me with wonder and with fear? Maria's form beheld I then? Or was it the unhappy Zarem, Who jealous thither came again To roam through the deserted harem? That tender look I cannot flee, Those charms still earthly still I see!

* * *

He who the muse and peace adores, Forgetting glory, love, and gold, Again thy ever flowery shores Soon, Salgir! joyful shall behold; The bard shall wind thy rocky ways Filled with fond sympathies, shall view Tauride's bright skies and waves of blue With greedy and enraptured gaze. Enchanting region! full of life Thy hills, thy woods, thy leaping streams, Ambered and rubied vines, all rife With pleasure, spot of fairy dreams! Valleys of verdure, fruits, and flowers, Cool waterfalls and fragrant bowers! All serve the traveller's heart to fill With joy as he in hour of morn By his accustomed steed is borne In safety o'er dell, rock, and hill, Whilst the rich herbage, bent with dews, Sparkles and rustles on the ground, As he his venturous path pursues Where AYOUDAHGA'S crags surround!

[1] A Turkish pipe.





Art of Worldly Wisdom Daily
In the 1600s, Balthasar Gracian, a jesuit priest wrote 300 aphorisms on living life called "The Art of Worldly Wisdom." Join our newsletter below and read them all, one at a time.
Email:
Sonnet-a-Day Newsletter
Shakespeare wrote over 150 sonnets! Join our Sonnet-A-Day Newsletter and read them all, one at a time.
Email: