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Lord Byron (1788–1824). Poetry of Byron. 1881.

II. Descriptive and Narrative

The Last of Ezzelin

(Lara, Canto ii. Stanza 24.)

UPON that night (a peasant’s is the tale)

A Serf that cross’d the intervening vale,

When Cynthia’s light almost gave way to morn,

And nearly veil’d in mist her waning horn—

A Serf, that rose betimes to thread the wood,

And hew the bough that bought his children’s food,

Pass’d by the river that divides the plain

Of Otho’s lands and Lara’s broad domain:

He heard a tramp—a horse and horseman broke

From out the wood—before him was a cloak

Wrapt round some burthen at his saddle-bow,

Bent was his head, and hidden was his brow.

Roused by the sudden sight at such a time,

And some foreboding that it might be crime,

Himself unheeded watch’d the stranger’s course,

Who reach’d the river, bounded from his horse,

And lifting thence the burthen which he bore,

Heaved up the bank, and dash’d it from the shore,

Then paused, and look’d, and turn’d, and seem’d to watch,

And still another hurried glance would snatch,

And follow with his step the stream that flow’d,

As if even yet too much its surface show’d.

At once he started—stoop’d; around him strown

The winter floods had scatter’d heaps of stone;

Of these the heaviest thence he gather’d there,

And slung them with a more than common care.

Meantime the Serf had crept to where unseen

Himself might safely mark what this might mean;

He caught a glimpse, as of a floating breast,

And something glitter’d starlike on the vest;

But ere he well could mark the buoyant trunk,

A massy fragment smote it, and it sunk:

It rose again, but indistinct to view,

And left the waters of a purple hue,

Then deeply disappear’d: the horseman gazed

Till ebb’d the latest eddy it had raised;

Then turning, vaulted on his pawing steed,

And instant spurr’d him into panting speed.

His face was mask’d—the features of the dead,

If dead it were, escaped the observer’s dread;

But if in sooth a star its bosom bore,

Such is the badge that knighthood ever wore,

And such ’tis known Sir Ezzelin had worn

Upon the night that led to such a morn.