The warrior bowed his crested head, and tamed his heart of fire,
And sued the haughty king to free his long-imprisoned sire;
"I bring thee here my fortress-keys, I bring my captive train,
I pledge thee faith, my liege, my lord!—oh break my father's chain!"
"Rise, rise! even now thy father comes, a ransomed man this day;
Mount thy good horse; and thou and I will meet him on his way."
Then lightly rose that loyal son, and bounded on his steed,
And urged, as if with lance in rest, the charger's foamy speed.
And lo! from far, as on they pressed, there came a glittering band,
With one that midst them stately rode, as leader in the land:
"Now haste, Bernardo, haste! for there, in very truth, is he,
The father whom thy faithful heart hath yearned so long to see."
His dark eye flashed, his proud breast heaved, his cheek's hue came and went;
He reached that gray-haired chieftain's side, and there, dismounting, bent;
A lowly knee to earth he bent, his father's hand he took—
What was there in its touch that all his fiery spirit shook?
That hand was cold,—a frozen thing,—it dropped from his like lead!
He looked up to the face above,—the face was of the dead!
A plume waved o'er the noble brow,—the brow was fixed and white,
He met, at last, his father's eyes, but in them was no sight!
Up from the ground he sprang and gazed, but who could paint that gaze?
They hushed their very hearts that saw its horror and amaze.
They might have chained him, as before that stony form he stood,
For the power was stricken from his arm, and from his lip the blood.
"Father!" at length he murmured low, and wept like childhood then;
Talk not of grief till thou hast seen the tears of warlike men!
He thought on all his glorious hopes, and all his young renown;
He flung the falchion from his side, and in the dust sat down.
Then covering with his steel-gloved hands his darkly mournful brow:
"No more, there is no more," he said, "to lift the sword for now;
My king is false, my hope betrayed, my father—oh, the worth,
The glory, and the loveliness, are passed away from earth!
I thought to stand where banners waved, my sire, beside thee, yet!
I would that there our kindred blood on Spain's free soil had met!
Thou wouldst have known my spirit then;—for thee my fields were won;
And thou hast perished in thy chains, as though thou hadst no son!"
Then, starting from the ground once more, he seized the monarch's rein,
Amidst the pale and 'wildered looks of all the courtier train;
And, with a fierce, o'ermastering grasp, the rearing war-horse led,
And sternly set them face to face, the king before the dead:
"Came I not forth, upon thy pledge, my father's hand to kiss?
Be still, and gaze thou on, false king! and tell me what is this?
The voice, the glance, the heart I sought—give answer, where are they?
If thou wouldst clear thy perjured soul, send life through this cold clay!
Into these glassy eyes put light; be still! keep down thine ire;
Bid these white lips a blessing speak, this earth is not my sire.
Give me back him for whom I strove, for whom my blood was shed!
Thou canst not?—and a king!—his dust be mountains on thy head."
He loosed the steed—his slack hand fell; upon the silent face
He cast one long, deep, troubled look, then turned from that sad place.
His hope was crushed, his after fate untold in martial strain;
His banner led the spears no more, amidst the hills of Spain.