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Thomas Chatterton Poems
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The Death of Nicou by Thomas Chatterton
On Tiber's banks, Tiber, whose waters glide
In slow meanders down to Gaigra's side;
And circling all the horrid mountain round,
Rushes impetuous to the deep profound;
Rolls o'er the ragged rocks with hideous yell;
Collects its waves beneath the earth's vast shell;
There for a while in loud confusion hurl'd,
It crumbles mountains down and shakes the world.
Till borne upon the pinions of the air,
Through the rent earth the bursting waves appear;
Fiercely propell'd the whiten'd billows rise,
Break from the cavern, and ascend the skies;
Then lost and conquered by superior force,
Through hot Arabia holds its rapid coursel
On Tiber's banks where scarlet jas'mines bloom,
And purple aloes shed a rich perfume;
Where, when the sun is melting in his heat,
The reeking tygers find a cool retreat;
Bask in the sedges, lose the sultry beam,
And wanton with their shadows in the stream;
On Tiber's banks, by sacred priests rever'd,
Where in the days of old a god appear'd;
'Twas in the dead of night, at Chalma's feast,
The tribe of Alra slept around the priest.
He spoke; as evening thunders bursting near,
His horrid accents broke upon the ear;
Attend, Alraddas, with your sacred priest!
This day the sun is rising in the east;
The sun, which shall illumine all the earth,
Now, now is rising, in a mortal birth.
He vanish'd like a vapour of the night,
And sunk away in a faint blaze of light.
Swift from the branches of the holy oak,
Horror, confusion, fear, and torment brake;
And still when midnight trims her mazy lamp,
They take their way through Tiber's wat'ry swamp.
On Tiber's banks, close ranked, a warring train,
Stretch'd to the distant edge of Galca's plain;
So when arrived at Gaigra's highest steep,
We view the wide expansion of the deep;
See in the gilding of her wat'ry robe,
The quick declension of the circling globe;
From the blue sea a chain of mountains rise,
Blended at once with water and with skies;
Beyond our sight in vast extension curl'd,
The check of waves, the guardians of the world.
Strong were the warriors, as the ghost of Cawn,
Who threw the Hill-of-archers to the lawn;
When the soft earth at his appearance fled;
And rising billows play'd around his head;
When a strong tempest rising from the main,
Dashed the full clouds, unbroken on the plain.
Nicou, immortal in the sacred song,
Held the red sword of war, and led the strong;
From his own tribe the sable warriors came,
Well try'd in battle, and well known in fame.
Nicou, descended from the god of war,
Who lived coeval with the morning star;
Narada was his name; who cannot tell
How all the world through great Narada fell!
Vichon, the god who ruled above the skies,
Look'd, on Narada, but with envious eyes;
The warrior dared him, ridiculed his might,
Bent his white bow, and summon'd him to fight.
Vichon, disdainful, bade his lightnings fly,
And scatter'd burning arrows in the sky;
Threw down a star the armour of his feet,
To burn the air with supernat'ral heat;
Bid a loud tempes roar beneath the ground;
Lifted him up, and bore him thro' the sea.
The waters still ascending fierce and high,
He tower'd into the chambers of the sky;
There Vichon sat, his armour on his bed,
He thought Narada with the mighty dead.
Before his seat the heavenly warrior stands,
The lightning quiv'ring in his yellow hands.
The god astonish'd dropt; hurl'd from the shore,
He dropt to torments, and to rise no more.

Head-long he falls; 'tis his own arms compel.
Condemn'd in ever-burning fires to dwell.
From this Narada, mighty Nicou sprung;
The mighty Nicou, furious, wild and young.
Who led th'embattled archers to the field,
And more a thunderbolt upon his shield;
That shield his glorious father died to gain,
When the white warriors fled along the plain,
When the full sails could not provoke the flood,
Till Nicou came and swell'd the seas with blood.
Slow at the end of his robust array,
The mighty warrior pensive took his way;
Against the son of Nair, the young Rorest,
Once the companion of his youthful breast.
Strong were the passions of the son of Nair,
Strong, as the tempest of the evening air.
Insatiate in desire; fierce as the boar;
Firm in resolve as Cannie's rocky shore.
Long had the gods endeavour'd to destroy,
All Nicou's friendship, happiness, and joy:
They sought in vain, 'till Vicat, Vichon's son,
Never in feats of wickedness outdone,
Saw Nica, sister to the Mountain king,
Drest beautiful, with all the flow'rs of spring;
He saw, and scatter'd poison in her eyes;
From limb to limb in varied forms he flies;
Dwelt on her crimson lip, and added grace
To every glossy feature of her face.
Rorest was fir'd with passion at the sight.
Friendship and honor, sunk to Vicat's right;
He saw, he lov'd, and burning with desire,
Bore the soft maid from brother, sister, sire.
Pining with sorrow, Nica faded, died,
Like a fair alow, in its morning pride.
This brought the warrior to the bloody mead,
And sent to young Rorest the threat'ning reed.
He drew his army forth: Oh, need I tell!
That Nicou conquer'd, and the lover fell;
His breathless army mantled all the plain;
And Death sat smiling on the heaps of slain.
The battle ended, with his reeking dart,
The pensive Nicou pierc'd his beating heart;
And to his mourning valiant warriors cry'd,
I, and my sister's ghost are satisfy'd.
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