THE DAMSEL OF PERU
by William Cullen Bryant
THE DAMSEL OF PERU -
Where olive-leaves were twinkling in every wind that blew
There sat beneath the pleasant shade a damsel of Peru.
Betwixt the slender boughsas they opened to the air
Came glimpses of her ivory neck and of her glossy hair;
And sweetly rang her silver voicewithin that shady nook
As from the shrubby glen is heard the sound of hidden brook.
'Tis a song of love and valorin the noble Spanish tongue
That once upon the sunny plains of old Castile was sung;
Whenfrom their mountain-holdson the Moorish rout below
Had rushed the Christians like a floodand swept away the foe.
Awhile that melody is stilland then breaks forth anew
A wilder rhymea livelier noteof freedom and Peru.
For she has bound the sword to a youthful lover's side
And sent him to the war the day she should have been his bride
And bade him bear a faithful heart to battle for the right
And held the fountains of her eyes till he was out of sight.
Since the parting kiss was givensix weary months are fled
And yet the foe is in the landand blood must yet be shed.
A white hand parts the branchesa lovely face looks forth
And bright dark eyes gaze steadfastly and sadly toward the north.
Thou look'st in vainsweet maidenthe sharpest sigh would fail
To spy a sign of human life abroad in all the vale;
For the noon is coming onand the sunbeams fiercely beat
And the silent hills and forest-tops seem reeling in the heat.
That white hand is withdrawnthat fair sad face is gone
But the music of that silver voice is flowing sweetly on
Not as of latein cheerful tonesbut mournfully and low-
A ballad of a tender maid heart-broken long ago
Of him who died in battlethe youthful and the brave
And her who died of sorrowupon his early grave.
And seealong that mountain-slopea fiery horseman ride;
Mark his torn plumehis tarnished beltthe sabre at his side.
His spurs are buried rowel-deephe rides with loosened rein
There's blood upon his charger's flank and foam upon the mane.
He speeds him toward the olive-grovealong that shaded hill!
God shield the helpless maiden thereif he should mean her ill!
And suddenly that song has ceasedand suddenly I hear
A shriek sent up amid the shadea shriek- but not of fear.
For tender accents followand tender pauses speak
The overflow of gladnesswhen words are all too weak;
"I lay my good sword at thy feetfor now Peru is free
And I am come to dwell beside the olive-grove with thee." - -