Anna Jane Vardill

THE OUTCAST

AN INDIAN TALE

On calm Cashmeria’s darkest dell
The welcome dews of evening fell,
While on the golden Iama’s spray
The plaintive cozel thrill’d her lay,
Unfelt, unheard by him whose head
Press’d softly on its fragrant bed.
He dream’d of heav’n! for oft he turn’d
His cheek where kindling rapture burn’d;
And scarce his eye’s reposing lid
The spark of sweet delirium hid.—
But midst those sprays of clust’ring gold
A serpent wreath’d its glossy fold;
And while its secret vigil kept,
Then to the slumb’ring Pilgrim crept.
It paus’d—it shrank!—a silver sound
Spread in melodious murmurs round;
Its fierce eye gleam’d—the reed again
Pour’d softly slow a fainter strain:
The startled foe forgot its prey,
And roll’d its burnish’d coils away.
 Was it a form of painted light
Stole on the waking Pilgrim’s sight?
A fairer seraph never bent
From holy mount or firmament!
The lucid blue of eastern skies
Swam in the light of Ora’s eyes,
As from her snowy brow she drew
The floating gauze of silv’ry hue.
 The vocal reed beside her hung,
Whose music sheath’d the serpent’s tongue:
She spake—so sweet a voice might close
A demon’s eye in bland repose.
“Wake! Pilgrim, wake! the flow’rs which shed
Such fragrance round thy dewy bed;
These flow’rs, of potent vapours full,
In deathful sleep thy senses lull!
Wake! poison mingles with thy breath;
Thy golden couch is bright with death.”

O beauty!—tender as the leaves
The water-loving lotos weaves,
Enrich’d and freshen’d by the tide
Which mantles round its virgin pride!
Thou, like the lotos, half unseen,
Should’st love the cool sequester’d screen;
But parch’d by Passion’s fervid rays
Thy pride to painted dust decays,
As in Lahore’s forsaken glades
The painted tulip flames and fades!—
Two moons have silver’d Delhi’s plain,
Another hastens to its wane,
Yet still the Pilgrim loves to stray
Where rich Cashmeria’s waters play;
And lingers near while oft and long
Mild Ora trills her evening song,
Or warbles through Circassian reeds.
Or bends o’er Brahma’s sacred beads:
The antelope with fearless eye
Beholds her smile and gambols nigh:
And well the gazing Pilgrim feels
The secret which that smile reveals.
But when in lonely trance he lies,
For distant lands the Pilgrim sighs;
In dreams his long-lost home he sees;
Its yellow glens and tow’ring trees;
His hall with laurell’d trophies stor’d,
His kinsmen smiling round his board,
And by his side the noble dame
His bounding heart aspires to claim.—
He wakes—and hears the plaintive lay
Which lur’d the serpent from its prey.
 Yet once again, unseen awhile
He looks on sleeping Ora’s smile;
A ling’ring sunbeam seems to spread
Its halo round her peaceful head;
The sylvan reed, Affection’s prize,
Beneath her rosy pillow lies.
One tear, Affection’s parting meed,
Falls softly on that precious reed—
“Sweet Ora!—lov’d, but lov’d in vain,
Farewell—they spotless rest retain!
Too long on Danger’s dizzy brink
My soul has lean’d, but shall not sink,—
My widow’d bride forsaken weeps,
My country calls, my honour sleeps:
Restore they vows to Brahma’s shrine,
Deserted Duty summons mine!”

From Delhi’s plain the Pilgrim hastes
O’er dark Lahore’s unmeasur’d wastes;
Till deep within its deepest vale
He shuns the desert’s poison’d gale,
Where many a green and flowr’y isle
Seems on the silver lake to smile:
Alas! the wearied pilgrim’s feet
Those ever-floating islands cheat—
Sport of the frolic tide they move,
Unfix’d as friendship, joy, or love!
’Midst lonely thickets, deep and dank,
He pauses on the frowing bank:
The moon is dim—the path is drear,
Yon forest hides the tiger’s lair—
A meagre form beside him stands
With muffled brow and folded hands.
“Who haunts my path?”—“Thine eyes behold
A wand’ring Outcast, poor and old,
Whom Brahma’s awful heralds doom
To perish in unfriended gloom,
But on my face thou canst not gaze,
No hand this holy hood shall raise;
The signet on this blasted brow
No mortal eye shall ever know.
Yet follow me!—my staff shall aid
Thy footsteps thro’ this baleful shade:
The moon which beams on Brahma’s dome
Shines on the Outcast’s humble home.”
 Safe to his couch of matted reeds
His guest the woe-worn Outcast leads:
The naptha’s blue and fitful blaze
Amidst a pile of spikenard plays,
While oft in cups of lotos pour’d
The cocoa yields its milky hoard.
“Now rest in peace! the morning ray
Shall guide thee on thy lonely way:
But go not till yon foes are past,
Whose death-yell echoes on the blast.
To-night in Brahma’s sacred cave
A thousand lurid torches wave;
A thousand vengeful priests proclaim
One faithless Outcast’s guilt and shame.
Yet mourn her not!—Amreeta’s bowl
Has steep’d in peace her banish’d soul.
Sleep, stranger!—hope and joy are thine,
To-morrow’s sun for thee shall shine!
 The morn’s first rays of rosy red
Gleam on the bounteous Outcast’s head:
He slumbers near his Pilgrim-guest,
His wan hands folded on his breast.
Why fear the trembling guest to trace
The secrets of that shrouded face?
Those hands are stiff, that breast is cold—
He rends the sable mantle’s fold;—
Ah, wretch!—that impious glance forbear!
Forsaken Ora’s face is there!

On Indu’s drear and hated shore
The Pilgrim’s feet are seen no more;
In Albion’s sunless isle he roves,
A stranger to his native groves:—
No kinsmen wait his social call,
No bridal banquet warms his hall—
The prize he sought—the noble dame
More lov’d than beauty, wealth, or fame,
A luckless Pilgrim’s faith disdains
And barters truth for golden chains:
But ever to his dreaming ear
Soft Ora’s tuneful reed is near;
And still in angel beauty drest,
Her spotless spirit guards his rest.

Nov. 1814

V.

The European Magazine, Vol. 66, November 1814, pp. 435-436