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Yet, when above the forest-glooms
The white swans southward passed, High as the pitch of their swift plumes
Her fancy rode the blast; And bore her toward the fields of France, 245
Her Father's native land, To mingle in the rustic dance,
The happiest of the band!
Of those beloved fields she oft
Had heard her Father tell 250
In phrase that now with echoes soft
Haunted her lonely cell;
She heard the ancestral stream;
Forgotten like a dream!
The ever-changing Moon had traced
Twelve times her monthly round, When through the unfrequented Waste
Was heard a startling sound; 260
A shout thrice sent from one who chased
At speed a wounded deer,
And where the wood was clear.
The fainting creature took the marsh, 265
And toward the Island fled,
Above his antlered head;
Shrunk to her citadel; 270
The desperate deer rushed on, and near
The tangled covert fell.
Across the marsh, the game in view,
The Hunter followed fast, Nor paused, till o'er the stag he blew 275
A death-proclaiming blast; Then, resting on her upright mind,
Came forth the Maid—" In me Behold," she said, "a stricken Hind
Pursued by destiny! 280
"From your deportment, Sir! I deem
That you have worn a sword, And will not hold in light esteem
A suffering woman's word; There is my covert, there perchance 285
I might have lain concealed, My fortunes hid, my countenance
Not even to you revealed.
"Tears might be shed, and I might pray,
Crouching and terrified, 290
That what has been unveiled to-day,
You would in mystery hide; But I will not defile with dust
The knee that bends to adore The God in heaven;—attend, be just; 295
This ask I, and no more!
"I speak not of the winter's cold
For summer's heat exchanged,
From social life estranged; 300
Nor yet of trouble and alarms:
High Heaven is my defence; And every season has soft arms
For injured Innocence.
"From Moscow to the Wilderness 305
It was my choice to come,
And honour want a home;
Retain his lawless will, 310
To end life here like this poor deer,
Or a lamb on a green hill."
"Are you the Maid," the Stranger cried,
"From Gallic parents sprung, Whose vanishing was rumoured wide, 315
Sad theme for every tongue;
You, Lady, forced to wear
Your head in this dark lair!" 320
But wonder, pity, soon were quelled;
And in her face and mien
Without a veil between:
Kindled 'mid rapturous tears; The passion of a moment came
As on the wings of years.
"Such bounty is no gift of chance,"
Exclaimed he; "righteous Heaven, 330 Preparing your deliverance,
To me the charge hath given.
Is stormy and self-willed;
His violence is stilled.
"Leave open to my wish the course,
And I to her will go;
G-ood, only good, can flow." 340
Faint sanction given, the Cavalier
Was eager to depart,
To the Maiden's filial heart.
Light was his step,—his hopes, more light, 345
Kept pace with his desires;
Of Moscow's glittering spires.
To the lorn Fugitive 350
The Emperor sent a pledge as strong
As sovereign power could give.
O more than mighty change! If e'er
Amazement rose to pain,
Of something void and vain;
So long the lost as dead,
The household floor to tread. 360
Soon gratitude gave way to love
Within the Maiden's breast; Delivered and Deliverer move
In bridal garments drest; Meek Catherine had her own reward; 365
The Czar bestowed a dower; And universal Moscow shared
The triumph of that hour.