Home  »  Poems of Places An Anthology in 31 Volumes  »  Ivan the Czar

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Russia: Vol. XX. 1876–79.


Ivan the Czar

By Felicia Hemans (1793–1835)

HE sat in silence on the ground,

The old and haughty czar;

Lonely, though princes girt him round,

And leaders of the war:

He had cast his jewelled sabre,

That many a field had won,

To the earth beside his youthful dead,

His fair and first-born son.

With a robe of ermine for its bed,

Was laid that form of clay,

Where the light a stormy sunset shed,

Through the rich tent made way:

And a sad and solemn beauty

On the pallid face came down,

Which the Lord of nations mutely watched,

In the dust, with his renown.

Low tones at last of woe and fear

From his full bosom broke;

A mournful thing it was to hear

How then the proud man spoke!

The voice that through the combat

Had shouted far and high,

Came forth in strange, dull, hollow tones,

Burdened with agony.

“There is no crimson on thy cheek,

And on thy lip no breath,

I call thee, and thou dost not speak,—

They tell me this is death!

And fearful things are whispering

That I the deed have done,—

For the honor of thy father’s name,

Look up, look up, my son!

“Well might I know death’s hue and mien,

But on thine aspect, boy!

What, till this moment, have I seen,

Save pride and tameless joy?

Swiftest thou wert to battle,

And bravest there of all,—

How could I think a warrior’s frame

Thus like a flower should fall?

“I will not bear that still, cold look,—

Rise up, thou fierce and free!

“Wake as the storm wakes! I will brook

All, save this calm, from thee!

Lift brightly up, and proudly,

Once more thy kindling eyes!

Hath my word lost its power on earth?

I say to thee, arise!

“Didst thou not know I loved thee well?

Thou didst not! and art gone,

In bitterness of soul, to dwell

Where man must dwell alone.

Come back, young fiery spirit!

If but one hour, to learn

The secrets of the folded heart,

That seemed to thee so stern.

“Thou wert the first, the first fair child,

That in mine arms I pressed;

Thou wert the bright one, that hast smiled

Like summer on my breast!

I reared thee as an eagle,

To the chase thy steps I led,

I bore thee on my battle-horse,

I look upon thee,—dead!

“Lay down my warlike banners here,

Never again to wave,

And bury my red sword and spear,

Chiefs! in my first-born’s grave!

And leave me!—I have conquered,

I have slain,—my work is done!

Whom have I slain?—ye answer not,—

Thou too art mute, my son!”

And thus his wild lament was poured

Through the dark resounding night,

And the battle knew no more his sword,

Nor the foaming steed his might.

He heard strange voices moaning

In every wind that sighed;

From the searching stars of heaven he shrank,—

Humbly the conqueror died.