« PreviousContinue »
be sealed, but that he comes fortunately upon a something, that affords him a chance of escape:
Ha! yon object strange
A partial shelter may bestow,
Evelyn descends the steps; and the readers of romance will be less surprised than delighted to learn, that he soon finds himself in the presence of the beloved Zeila. A very tender scene then ensues; the lovers, surrounded as they are by danger, plight their troth to each other, and, in an agony of alarm on the one side, and of desperate but manly sorrow on the other, part, as the footsteps of Aminullah Khan are heard upon the stairs. Evelyn escapes through a secret door; and Zeila is left alone with her grief.
Evelyn makes his way through strange passages and dungeon vaults, until at last he emerges into the light of day, near the Chandoul gate, and finds the steed, which had been sent there by the faithful Zeila. Perceiving that it is the identical animal, that had rolled over with the fair maid, he mounts and gallops off
To safety and to Khan Sherin,
whom we are glad to see no longer classed among the rebels.
We are then again introduced to the conspirators assembled in Aminullah's halls; and somewhat surprised by the apparition of Akbar Khan, whom we did not expect to meet at so early a stage of the proceedings; as history asserts, with much confidence, that he did not reach Kabul, before the 25th of November. Aminullah is of course rejoiced to see him, and exclaims,
Allah be praised! Oh! hour of pride,
Akbar, disclaiming all powers of eloquence, makes a long speech about patriotism; but the time for talking is at an end, and the conclave is soon broken up by the bombardment of the city:
Hark 'tis the boom of a heavy gun;
Full soon has the work of wrath begun ;
A fearful crash! a well-aimed ball
Hath shattering rent the chamber wall ;
The rushing flight of the death-winged shell !
and we are soon in the midst of the rebellion.
The events, which followed each other in such rapid succession through that perilous November, are but briefly recited by the poet. A hasty tribute, however, is paid to the memory of those who fell :
The martial spirits of after-days
Shall proudly re-echo their kindred praise;
To the murderous bands of the Yaghi's host-
With his single arm, in tens, the foe;
How there, sword-gashed and pierced with shot,
How Wyndham, Jenkins, King, to fame,
Bequeathed an undying and hero name;
How Leighton, Macbrea, Swayne, Robinson,
And Gordon, their heart's bright blood outpoured,
As their souls on warrior pinions soared
To the highest heaven, and glorious won
The passage, which follows this, though there be nothing very original in the conception, is among the best in the entire volume :
Midnight's silence dark and deep
With flint of steel and quivering lance,
Where the westering sunlight beams
With subtle art and love's controul.
Soldier! slumber on, nor wake,
Must, till the camp's awakened life,
After a brief glimpse of the sorrowing Zeila, we come upon an account of the unfortunate affair of Behmaru :
Now fetterless incapacity
Lords it with mandate sternly high;
Has shorn each weapon of its use.
The poet does not attempt to veil the melancholy truth, but describes the rout of the British troops in a manner too humiliating for quotation.
The next canto brings us back again to the young lovers. spite of war's alarms, they have contrived to meet at a convenient trysting place, and to snatch a brief rapture amidst the all-surrounding misery and strife. Evelyn is wounded at Behmaru; but he nevertheless carries his "cleft cheek" and "wounded hand" to the pressure of the fair Zeila, who tells him that Akbar Khan has determined to seize the person of the Envoy. On this Evelyn hurries off to McNaghten; but his warnings are disregarded. The conference takes place, and the Envoy is murdered.
Out burst fierce Akbar,-"Never more
When soughtest thou Akbar to betray:
"What," cried the furious Akbar, "Slave,
MacNaghten bleeds. That pistol shot
The lifeless carcase; piecemeal hewn
The sixth and last canto is devoted to the retreat of the doomed force through the dreadful snow. Evelyn and Zeila have bidden adieu to each other, and the army has commenced its march. The sufferings of the unhappy troops and the more unhappy camp followers are traced from day to day with much painful minuteness. Evelyn toils and fights on through the cruel passes, but at last is stricken down and left upon a heap of slain. Here Zeila comes to seek him. Disguised as an Afghan youth, she has followed the remnant of the retreating army, and now seeks the body of her beloved;
Slender of form, of youthful mien,
Lie forms abundant weltering there,
Who Afghan form and features wear.
She succeeds at last in her melancholy search, and finds the bloody and seemingly stark corpse of her beloved; but, still not abandoning all hopes, tears the turban from her brow to bind his wounds, and then
the eager gusty wind
Doth now each raven tress unbind-
It is, in fact, Zeila herself, who, faithful to the last, has come
to die with her Evelyn;
Yes; yes, twas Zeila! Almighty pow'r !
Oh! comfort in this bitter hour!
Her Evelyn she had sought among
Though worlds were all the risk-oh! all,
In the agony of her grief she calls upon him to speak only one word to her; and, as she pours out her distracted sorrow, the body begins to move ;
It breathes-it palpitates-revives;
Kind Heav'n! its death-hour still survives.
But the gleam of life is but momentary. The dying soldier opens his eyes, recognises his beloved, faintly murmurs "my own-own Zeila!" and expires. Upon which Zeila goes madand not improbably perishes in the snow, though the poet is silent on the subject.
We have now given some account of these three hundred and fifty pages of verse; and we turn, with something of a sensation of relief, to the notes which conclude the volumes. The most interesting of these are extracts from the author's "MS. Journal." Mr. Mackenzie has considerable descriptive powers, and he never appears to so much advantage, as when he is writing of what he has seen-jotting down the impressions of the moment. Then he is often picturesque, and minutely faithful in his details. The following is not a bad description of the Shor Bazar of Kabul:
The Shor Bazaar is the most beautiful and remarkable structure in Caubul. It was erected by the celebrated Ali Murdan Khan, some time Governor of Candahar, during the reign of Jehangir. He was a chief of great power and distinction, and possessed of such vast treasures as to have excited the cupidity of his master, the Shah of Persia, who endeavoured to obtain possession of his princely person, in order to divest it of its capital embellishment. To save his head and enormous riches from the cruelty and grasp of the rapacious Lion of the Sun, Ali Murdan yielded up Candahar to the Emperor Jehangir: and, being received with much kindness and distinction by that monarch, lived in ease and quietude for the remainder of a long and honourable life. His memory is perpetuated in the beauties of the Shor Bazaar of Caubul. It is a succession of four lofty arcades, two stories high, between fifty and sixty yards in length, and seven or eight in breadth, and separated by three open intervals, about sixteen or seventeen yards square; in the centre of each of these spaces is a small tank, or basin, coped with white marble, and supplied with a jet d'eau, for the refreshment and delectation of the frequenters and occupants of the