Collected Poems of Henry Derozio: Preface by Manu Samriti Chander; Edited by Amardeep Singh

The Grecian Sire and Son

   These lines were written on 'an incident, which if my memory fail not, is as follows’ — 
A young Greek at close of evening, wandered near the ramparts of a Turkish battlement and was there singing the fortunes of his oppressed and wretched country. A sentry who was at no great distance, overheard, saw, and shot him. The father of the lad went out next morning in quest of his son— he found the boy dead, at the place where he fell, and there gave vent to his paternal feelings The same sentry who had shot the youth, perceived that this was his father, and, to complete his bloody work, levelled his musket, and laid the parent lifeless by the corse of his child.

“O heaven! in Hellas' Paynim time, 
"'She seem'd of thee favor'd clime— 
"Then — freedom hung upon her breast, 
"And on her mountains rear'd her nest, 
"Then — glory hover'd in her sky. 
"And prun'd her purple wing on high , — 
"On earth, her son's loud battle-cry 
"Was — On to death, or victory! 
"Now, see her in her silent woe, 
"Her last sad tears shed long ago , 
"She stands a wreck — the work of fate, 
"Majestically desolate — 
"Her temples razed, her rites profan'd. 
"Her altar-cup with blood disdain'd;
"See strangers claim her hills and plains,
"See Christian Greece in servile chains!
"Should man (O! sure it should not be)
"Breathe here the air that is not free?
"O did he live--the mighty He
"Who conquer'd at Thermopylae,
"How would he break the bonds that bind
"His vassal race, his fallen kind!
"Rise! great Athenian, from thy grave,
"And once again thy country save.
"Tho' in death's slumber none can hear,
"Yet,--freedom's wail should pierce thine ear.
"O! who that think on Salamis,
"On what it was--and what it is--
"Would not indulge a hope, a thought
"That liberty might there be bought?--
"That rock with frowns its brow doth wreathe,
"That tyranny should crouch beneath;
"That gulf, when sweeps the angry gust,
"Oppression should not dare to trust,
"Lest in its wreath, it foam and rave,
"And whelm the despot in the wave.
"O Greece--'my native land'--
* * * * * *
Hark! 'twas a shriek--as sad and shrill
As the wild deer's cry, when the night is still--
The minstrel Greek hath clos'd his eyes, 
And at the rampart's base he lies.
He fell-but 'twas by Freedom's foe,
For Moslem bullet laid him low.--
The vulture, ere the dawn of day,
Upon his youthful corse may prey;
The famish'd lean dog, wild and grim,
May feast upon each lifeless limb;--
And worse than dog, the robber-band
May strip, and cast him on the strand;
And tho' his bones there bleach and rot,
His spirit's free--he'll heed it not.
But there's a hand may rear a tomb
O'er virtue blighted in its bloom,
And there's a heart may mourn the fall
Of him who lies by the Mussulman's wall.
* * * * *
The sun, now peeping o'er the hill,
His rays of light darts on the rill;
The waters sparkle in the beam
That plays upon the golden stream,
And here and there a streak of blue
Gives to the wave a lively hue;--
The pilgrim rises from his rest,
From earth--the pillow he hath prest--
To loiter goes the mountaineer,
And onward wanders lone Fakeer--
And tho', O Greece! thou art the clime
The sun saw free in former time,
That sun which shone on the land of the brave,
Now gives thee light--but as the slave of the slave!
* * * * * *
"And it is thus I find thee, boy!
"My staff of age--my hope--my joy--
"Thy tender breast besmear'd with gore,
"And still'd thy heart--to throb no more!
"Tho' cold's thy hand, and fled's thy breath,
"Thou'rt like thy country--fair in death.
"Could I remove, I fain would try,
"The glassy stillness of thine eye,
"But that the tyrant ne'ever will be
"O'ercome by such a wretch as me;
"Yet--better human bondage broke,
"And e'en submission to his yoke,
"Than groan 'neath Turkish tyranny,
"Where none can say his life is free.
"Forgive me, Greece! I love thy shore--
"But still--I loved my darling more;
"And tho' in blissful regions bright
"His spirit sports, enrapt with light,
"O! could I call him from the skies,
"I would--to bless my longing eyes.
"One heavy sigh, sweet boy, I heave,
"One wreath for thee I yet will weave,
"One lock I take of thy dark hair,
"Memorial of thy love to wear;--
"My child!--one look--one farewell view--
"One cold, cold kiss--one last adieu!"
* * * * * *
He spake no more; a spark of light 
Flash'd on the Moslem turret's height:
The selfsame sentinel that stood
There yesterday, and shed the blood
That warm'd the Grecian's heart of fire,
Now lifeless laid the childless sire!
O! happy, happy is their lot
Whom even death will sever not;
O! glorious is their mortal blow,
Since given by their country's foe:
And you, who fell beneath the hand 
Of him who long oppressed your land,
though on the sod exposed you lie, 
You need no tomb--you cannot die--
What though your last of breath is drawn,
What though your spark of feeling's gone?
Your memory lives--your glorious  name
Is consecrated unto fame;
And tongues in after times shall tell
Of this fond pair, and how they fell;
And many a bard on many a lyre
Shall sing the patriot son and sire.

June, 1825.

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