The Dance of Death


Bow to me, bow to me;
Follow me in my burning breath,
Which brings as the simoom destruction and death.
My spirit lives in the hectic glow
When I bid the life streams tainted flow
In the fervid sun's deep brooding beam
When seething vapours in volumes steam,
And they fall — the young, the gay — as the flower
'Neath the fiery wind's destructive power.
This day I have gotten a noble prize —
There was one who saw the morning rise,
And watched fair Cynthia's golden streak
Kiss the misty mountain peak,
But I was there, and my poisonous flood
Envenomed the gush of the youth's warm blood.
They hastily bore him to his bed,
But o'er him Death his swart pennons spread:
The skilled leech's art was vain,
Delirium revelled in each vein.
I marked each deathly change in him;
I watched each lustrous eye grow dim,
The purple cloud on his deep swollen brow,
The gathering death sweat's chilly flow,
The dull dense film obscure the eye,
Heard the last quick gasp and saw him die.


My spirit has passed on the lightning's wing
O'er city and land with its withering;
In the crowded street, in the flashing hall
My tramp has been heard: they are lonely all.
A nation has swept at my summons away
As mists before the glare of day.
See how proudly reigns my hand
In the blackening heaps on the surf-beat strand
Where the rank grass grows in deserted streets
Where the terrified stranger no passer meets
And all around the putrid air
Gleams lurid and red in Erinyes' stare
Where silence reigns, where late swelled the lute,
Thrilling lyre, mellifluous flute.
There if my prowess ye would know
Seek ye — and bow to your rival low.


Bow to me, bow to me;
My influence is in the freezing deeps
Where the icy power of torpor sleeps,
Where the frigid waters flow
My marble chair is more cold below;
When the Grecian braved the Hellespont's flood
How did I curdle his fevered blood,
And sent his love in tumescent wave
To meet with her lover an early grave.
When Hellas' victor sought the rush
Of the river to lave in its cooling gush,
Did he not feel my iron clutch
When he fainted and sank at my algid touch?
These are the least of the trophies I claim —
Bow to me then, and own my fame.


Hear ye not the gloomy yelling
Or the tide of anguish swelling,
Hear ye the clank of fetter and chain,
Hear ye the wild cry of grief and pain,
Followed by the shuddering laugh
As when fiends the life-blood quaff?
See! see that band,
See how their bursting eyeballs gleam,
As the crocodiles' when crouched in the stream,
In India's sultry land.
Now they are seized in the rabies fell,
Hark! 'tis a shriek as from fiends of hell;
Now there is a plaining moan,
As the flow of the sullen river —
List! there is a hollow groan.
Doth it not make e'en you to shiver —
These are they struck of the barbs of my quiver.
Slaves before my haughty throne,
Bow then, bow to me alone.


'Tis for me, 'tis for me;
Mine the prize of Death must be;
My spirit is o'er the young and gay
As on snowy wreaths in the bright noonday.
They wear a melting and vermeille flush
E'en while I bid their pulses hush,
Hueing o'er their dying brow
With the spring of health's best roseate glow
When the lover watches the full dark eye
Robed in tints of ianthine dye,
Beaming eloquent as to declare
The passions that deepen the glories there.
The frost in its tide of dazzling whiteness,
As Juno's brow of crystal brightness,
Such as the Grecian's hand could give
When he bade the sculptured marble " live,"
The ruby suffusing the Hebe cheek,
The pulses that love and pleasure speak
Can his fond heart claim but another day,
And the loathsome worm on her form shall prey.
She is scathed as the tender flower,
When mildews o'er its chalice lour.
Tell me not of her balmy breath,
Its tide shall be shut in the fold of death;
Tell me not of her honied lip,
The reptile's fangs shall its fragrance sip.
Then will I say triumphantly
Bow to the deadliest — bow to me!
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