by Adam Lindsay Gordon
Crush'd and throng'd are all the places
In our amphitheatre,
'Midst a sea of swarming faces
I can yet distinguish her ;
Dost thou triumph, dark-brow'd Nina ?
Is my secret known to thee ?
On the sands of yon arena
I shall yet my vengeance see.
Now through portals fast careering
Picadors are disappearing ;
Now the barriers nimbly clearing
Has the hindmost chulo flown.
Clots of dusky crimson streaking,
Brindled flanks and haunches reeking,
Wheels the wild bull, vengeance seeking,
On the matador alone.
Features by sombrero shaded,
Pale and passionless and cold ;
Doublet richly laced and braided,
Trunks of velvet slash'd with gold,
Blood-red scarf, and bare Toledo,—
Mask more subtle, and disguise
Far less shallow, thou dost need, oh
Traitor, to deceive my eyes.
Shouts of noisy acclamation,
Breathing savage expectation,
Greet him while he takes his station
Leisurely, disdaining haste;
Now he doffs his tall sombrero,
Fools ! applaud your butcher hero,
Ye would idolize a Nero,
Pandering to public taste.
From the restless Guadalquivir
To my sire's estates he came,
Woo'd and won me, how I shiver !
Though my temples burn with shame.
I, a proud and high-born lady,
Daughter of an ancient race,
'Neath the vine and olive shade I
Yielded to a churl's embrace.
To a churl my vows were plighted,
Well my madness he requited,
Since, by priestly ties, united
To the muleteer's child,
And my prayers are wafted o'er him,
That the bull may crush and gore him,
Since the love that once I bore him
Has been changed to hatred wild.
Save him ! aid him ! oh Madonna !
Two are slain if he is slain ;
Shield his life, and guard his honour,
Let me not entreat in vain.
Sullenly the brindled savage
Tears and tosses up the sand ;
Horns that rend and hoofs that ravage,
How shall man your shock withstand ?
On the shaggy neck and head lie
Frothy flakes, the eyeballs redly
Flash, the horns so sharp and deadly
Lower, short, and strong, and straight ;
Fast, and furious, and fearless,
Now he charges ;—Virgin peerless,
Lifting lids all dry and tearless,
At thy throne I supplicate.
Cool and calm the perjured varlet
Stands on strongly planted heel,
In his left a strip of scarlet,
In his right a streak of steel ;
Ah ! the monster topples over,
Till his haunches strike the plain !—
Low-born clown and lying lover,
Thou hast conquer'd once again.
Sweet Madonna, Maiden Mother,
Thou hast saved him, and no other ;
Now the tears I cannot smother,
Tears of joy my vision blind ;
Where thou sittest I am gazing,
These glad, misty eyes upraising,
I have pray'd, and I am praising,
Bless thee ! bless thee ! Virgin kind.
While the crowd still sways and surges,
Ere the applauding shouts have ceas'd,
See, the second bull emerges—
'Tis the famed Cordovan beast,—
By the picador ungoaded,
Scathless of the chulo's dart.
Slay him, and with guerdon loaded,
And with honours crown'd depart.
No vain brutish strife he wages,
Never uselessly he rages,
And his cunning, as he ages,
With his hatred seems to grow ;
Though he stands amid the cheering,
Sluggish to the eye appearing,
Few will venture on the spearing
Of so resolute a foe.
Courage, there is little danger,
Yonder dull-eyed craven seems
Fitter far for stall and manger
Than for scarf and blade that gleams ;
Shorter, and of frame less massive,
Than his comrade lying low,
Tame, and cowardly, and passive,—
He will prove a feebler foe.
I have done with doubt and anguish,
Fears like dews in sunshine languish,
Courage, husband, we shall vanquish,
Thou art calm and so am I.
For the rush he has not waited,
On he strides with step elated,
And the steel with blood unsated,
Leaps to end the butchery.
Tyro! mark the brands of battle
On those shoulders dusk and dun,
Such as he is are the cattle
Skill'd tauridors gladly shun ;
Warier than the Andalusian,
Swifter far, though not so large,
Think'st thou, to his own confusion,
He, like him, will blindly charge ?
Inch by inch the brute advances,
Stealthy yet vindictive glances,
Horns as straight as levell'd lances,
Crouching withers, stooping haunches ;—
Closer yet, until the tightening
Strains of rapt excitement height'ning
Grows oppressive. Ha ! like lightning
On his enemy he launches.
O,er the horn'd front drops the streamer,
In the nape the sharp steel hisses,
Glances, grazes,—Christ ! Redeemer !
By a hair the spine he misses.
Hark ! that shock like muffled thunder,
Booming from the Pyrenees !
Both are down—the man is under—
Now he struggles to his knees,
Now he sinks, his features leaden,
Sharpen rigidly and deaden,
Sands beneath him soak and redden,
Skies above him spin and veer ;
Through the doublet, torn and riven,
Where the stunted horn was driven,
Wells the life-blood—We are even,
Daughter of the muleteer !