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He kneels at morn, and noon, and “ Ha! ha!” quoth he, “full plain I
He hath a cushion plump:
The devil knows how to row.”
It is the moss that wholly hides
And now, all in my own countrée,
The rotted old oak stump.
I stood on the firm land !
The skiff-boat near'd: I heard them | The hermit stepp'd forth from the
“Why this is strange, I trow ! And scarcely he could stand.
Where are those lights, so many and
“O shrive me, shrive me, holy man!" The ancient ma. fair,
riperearoestlyesThe hermit cross'd his brow.
treateth the ber That signal made but now ?” “Say quick," quoth he, “ I bid thee mit to shrive bim;
and the penance say
of life falls oa Approacheth the “Strange, by my faith!" the hermit ship with wonder.
What manner of man art thou ?”
“ And they answer not our cheer! Forthwith this frame of mine was
The planks look'd warp'd! and see wrench'd
With a woful agony,
How thin they are and sere! Which forced me to begin my tale ;
I never saw aught like to them, And then it left me free.
Unless perchance it were
Since then, at an uncertain hour,
anon throughout That “ Brown skeletons of leaves that lag
agony returns :
his future life an My forest brook along;
And till my ghastly tale is told,
This heart within me burns.
eth him to travel When the ivy-tod is heavy with snow,
from land to land. And the owlet whoops to the wolf
I pass, like night, from land to land :
I have strange power of speech;
That eats the she-wolf's young."
That moment that his face I see,
I know the man that must hear me:
“ Dear Lord! it hath a fiendish look-
To him my tale I teach.
(The pilot made reply,)
I am a-fear’d.”_"Push on, push on!” What loud uproar bursts from that
Said the hermit cheerily.
The wedding-guests are there
The boat came closer to the ship,
But in the garden-bower the bride
But I nor spake nor stirr’d;
And bridemaids singing are:
The boat came close beneath the ship, And hark! the little vesper-bell,
And straight a sound was heard.
Which biddeth me to prayer.
The ship sudden. Under the water it rumbled on, O wedding-guest! this soul hath been
Still louder and more dread:
Alone on a wide, wide sea :
It reach'd the ship, it split the bay ; So lonely 'twas, that God himself
The ship went down like lead. Scarce seemed there to be.
The ancient ma. Stunn'd by that loud and dreadful O sweeter than the marriage-feast,
'Tis sweeter far to me, the pilot's boat.
Which sky and ocean smote,
To walk together to the kirk,
Like one that hath been seven days With a goodly company -
To walk together to the kirk,
My body lay afloat;
And all together pray,
But swift as dreams, myself I found
While each to his great Father bends,
Within the pilot's boat.
Old men and babes, and loving friends,
And youths and maidens gay!
Upon the whirl, where sank the ship,
The boat spun round and round; Farewell, farewell! but this I tell And to teach, by
And all was still, save that the hill
his own example, To thee, thou wedding-guest!
love and rever. Was telling of the sound.
He prayeth well, who loveth well ence to all things
Both man, and bird, and beast.
I moved my lips--the pilot shriek’d,
And fell down in a fit;
He prayeth best, who loveth best
The holy hermit raised his eyes, All things, both great and small;
And pray'd where he did sit.
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all.
I took the oars: the pilot's boy,
Who now doth crazy go,
The mariner, whose eye is bright,
Laugh'd loud and long, and all the Whose beard with age is hoar,
Is gone: and now the wedding-guest
His eyes went to and fro,
Turn'd from the bridegroom's door.
He went like one that hath been
And is of sense forlorn,
A sadder and a wiser man
He rose the morrow morn.
'Tis the middle of night by the castle clock,
And the owls have awaken'd the crowing cock:
And hark, again! the crowing cock,
How drowsily it crew.
Sir Leoline, the baron rich,
Hath a toothless mastiff, which
From her kennel beneath the rock
Maketh answer to the clock,
Four for the quarters, and twelve for the hour ;
Ever and aye, by shine and shower,
Sixteen short howls, not over-loud;
Some say, she sees my lady's shroud.
Is the night chilly and dark ?
The night is chilly, but not dark.
The thin gray cloud is spread on high,
It covers but not hides the sky.
The moon is behind, and at the full;
And yet she looks both small and dull.
The night is chill, the cloud is gray:
'Tis a month before the month of May,
And the spring comes slowly up this way.
The lovely lady, Christabel,
Whom her father loves so well,
What makes her in the wood so late,
A furlong from the castle gate ?
She had dreams all yesternight
Of her own betrothed knight;
And she in the midnight wood will pray
For the weal of her lover that's far away.
PREFACE.* The first part of the following poem was written in the year one thousand seven hundred and ninetyseven, at Stowey in the county of Somerset. The second part, after my return from Germany, in the year one thousand eight hundred, at Keswick, Cumberland. Since the latter date, my poetic powers have been, till very lately, in a state of suspended animation. But as, in my very first conception of the tale, I had the whole present to my mind, with the wholeness, no less than with the loveliness of a vision, I trust that I shall yet be able to embody in verse the three parts yet to come.
It is probable, that if the poem had been finished at either of the former periods, or if even the first and second part had been published in the year 1800, the impression of its originality would have been much greater than I dare at present expect. But for this, I have only my own indolence to blame. The dates are mentioned for the exclusive purpose of precluding charges of plagiarism or servile imitation from myself. For there is amongst us a set of critics, who seem to hold, that every possible thought and image is traditional; who have no notion that there are such things as fountains in the world, small as well as great; and who would, therefore, charitably derive every rill they behold flowing, from a perforation made in some other man's tank. I am confident, however, that as far as the present poem is concerned, the celebrated poets whose writings I might be suspected of having imitated, either in particular passages, or in the tone and the spirit of the whole, would be among the first to vindicate me from the charge, and who, on any striking coincidence, would permit me to address them in this doggerel version of two monkish Latin hexameters.
'Tis mine, and it is likewise yours;
But an' if this will not do,
Let it be mine, good friend ! for I
Am the poorer of the two. I have only to add, that the metre of the Christabel is not, properly speaking, irregular, though it may seem so from its being founded on a new principle: namely, that of counting in each line the accents, not the syllables. Though the latter may vary from seven to twelve, yet in each line the accents will be found to be only four. Nevertheless, this occasional variation in number of syllables is not introduced wantonly, or for the mere ends of convenience, but in correspondence with some transition, in the nature of the imagery or passion.
She stole along, she nothing spoke,
The sighs she heaved were soft and low,
And naught was green upon the oak,
But moss and rarest misletoe:
She kneels beneath the huge oak tree,
And in silence prayeth she.
The lady sprang up suddenly,
The lovely lady, Christabel !
It moan'd as near as near could be,
But what it is she cannot tell.-
On the other side it seems to be,
Of the huge, broad-breasted, old oak tree.
The night is chill; the forest bare;
Is it the wind that moaneth bleak?
There is not wind enough in the air
To move away the ringlet curl
From the lovely lady's cheek-
There is not wind enough to twirl
The one red leaf, the last of its clan,
That dances as often as dance it can,
Hanging so light, and hanging so high,
On the topmost twig that looks up at the sky.
Hush, beating heart of Christabel !
Jesu, Maria, shield her well!
She folded her arms beneath her cloak,
And stole to the other side of the oak.
What sees she there?
There she sees a damsel bright, Drest in a silken robe of white,
That shadowy in the moonlight shone:
The neck that made that white robe wan,
Her stately neck, and arms were bare ;
Her blue-vein'd feet unsandall'd were,
And wildly glitter'd here and there
The gems entangled in her hair.
I guess, 'twas frightful there to see
A lady so richly clad as she-
They cross'd the moat, and Christabel
Took the key that fitted well;
A little door she open'd straight,
All in the middle of the gate ;
The gate that was iron'd within and without,
Where an army in battle array had march'd out.
The lady sank, belike through pain,
And Christabel with might and main
Lifted her up, a weary weight,
Over the threshold of the gate :
Then the lady rose again,
And moved, as she were not in pain.
Mary mother, save me now!
(Said Christabel,) And who art thou ?
The lady strange made answer meet,
And her voice was faint and sweet :-
Have pity on my sore distress,
I scarce can speak for weariness :
Stretch forth thy hand, and have no fear!
Said Christabel, How camest thou here?
And the lady, whose voice was faint and sweet,
Did thus pursue her answer meet :-
So free from danger, free from fear,
They cross'd the court: right glad they were.
And Christabel devoutly cried
To the lady by her side,
Praise we the Virgin all divine
Who hath rescued thee from thy distress!
Alas, alas! said Geraldine,
I cannot speak for weariness.
So free from danger, free from fear,
They cross'd the court: right glad they were.
Outside her kennel, the mastiff old
Lay fast asleep, in moonshine cold.
The mastiff old did not awake,
Yet she an angry moan did make!
And what can ail the mastiff bitch ?
Never till now she utter'd yell
Beneath the eye of Christabel.
Perhaps it is the owlet's scritch;
For what can ail the mastiff bitch ?
My sire is of a noble line,
And my name is Geraldine ;
Five warriors seized me yestermorn,
Me, even me, a maid forlorn :
They choked my cries with force and fright,
And tied me on a palfrey white.
The palfrey was as fleet as wind,
And they rode furiously behind.
They spurr'd amain, their steeds were white;
And once we cross’d the shade of night.
As sure as Heaven shall rescue me,
I have no thought what men they be ;
Nor do I know how long it is
(For I have lain entranced I wis)
Since one, the tallest of the five,
Took me from the palfrey's back,
A weary woman, scarce alive.
Some mutter'd words his comrades spoke :
He placed me underneath this oak,
He swore they would return with haste:
Whither they went I cannot tell-
I thought I heard, some minutes past,
Sounds as of a castle-bell.
Stretch forth thy hand, (thus ended she,)
And help a wretched maid to flee.
They pass'd the hall, that echoes still,
Pass as lightly as you will !
The brands were flat, the brands were dying,
Amid their own white ashes lying:
But when the lady pass'd, there came
A tongue of light, a fit of flame;
And Christabel saw the lady's eye,
And nothing else saw she thereby,
Save the boss of the shield of Sir Leoline tall,
Which hung in a murky old niche in the wall
O softly tread ! said Christabel,
My father seldom sleepeth well.
Then Christabel stretch'd forth her hand,
And comforted fair Geraldine:
O well, bright dame! may you command
The service of Sir Leoline;
And gladly our stout chivalry
Will he send forth and friends withal,
To guide and guard you safe and free
Home to your noble father's hall.
Sweet Christabel her feet doth bare ;
And, jealous of the listening air,
They steal their way from stair to stair :
Now in glimmer, and now in gloom-
And now they pass the baron's room,
As still as death with stified breath!
And now have reach'd her chamber-door ;
And now doth Geraldine press down
The rushes of the chamber floor.
She rose; and forth with steps they pass'd
That strove to be, and were not, fast.
Her gracious stars the lady blest,
And thus spake on sweet Christabel :-
All our household are at rest,
The hall as silent as the cell;
Sir Leoline is weak in health,
And may not well awaken'd be,
But we will move as if in stealth ;
And I beseech your courtesy,
This night, to share your couch with me.
The moon shines dim in the open air,
And not a moonbeam enters here.
But they without its light can see
The chamber carved so curiously,
Carved with figures strange and sweet,
All made out of the carver's brain,
For a lady's chamber meet:
The lamp with twofold silver chain
Is fasten'd to an angel's feet.
And on her elbow did recline To look at the Lady Geraldine.
The silver lamp burns dead and dim;
But Christabel the lamp will trim.
She trimm'd the lamp, and made it bright,
And left it swinging to and fro,
While Geraldine, in wretched plight,
Sank down upon the floor below,
O weary lady, Geraldine,
I pray you, drink this cordial wine!
It is a wine of virtuous powers;
My mother made it of wild flowers.
Beneath the lamp the Lady bow'd,
And slowly roll'd her eyes around;
Then drawing in her breath aloud,
Like one that shudder'd, she unbound
The cincture from beneath her breast :
Her silken robe, and inner vest,
Dropt to her feet, and full in view,
Behold! her bosom and half her side-
A sight to dream of, not to tell !
O shield her! shield sweet Christabel.
And will your mother pity me,
Who am a maiden most forlorn ?
Christabel answer'd-Wo is me!
She died the hour that I was born.
I have heard the gray-hair'd friar tell,
How on her death-bed she did say,
That she should hear the castle-bell
Strike twelve upon my wedding-day.
O mother dear! that thou wert here!
I would, said Geraldine, she were!
But soon, with alter'd voice said she
“ Off, wandering mother! Peak and pine!
I have power to bid thee fee.”
Alas! what ails poor Geraldine ?
Why stares she with unsettled eye?
Can she the bodiless dead espy?
And why with hollow voice cries she,
“Off, woman, off! this hour is mine-
Though thou her guardian spirit be,
Off, woman, off! 'tis given to me.”
Yet Geraldine nor speaks nor stirs ;
Ah! what a stricken look was hers!
Deep from within she seems halfway
To lift some weight with sick assay,
And eyes the maid and seeks delay;
Then suddenly as one defied
Collects herself in scorn and pride,
And lay down by the maiden's side ! -
And in her arms the maid she took,
And with low voice and doleful look
These words did say:
In the touch of this bosom there worketh a spell
Which is lord of thy utterance, Christabel !
Thou knowest to-night, and wilt know to-morrow
This mark of my shame, this seal of my sorrow;
But vainly thou warrest,
For this is alone in
Thy power to declare,
That in the dim forest
Thou heardest a low moaning, And foundest a bright lady, surpassingly fair: And didst bring her home with thee in love and in
charity, To shield her and shelter her from the damp air.
Then Christabel knelt by the lady's side,
And raised to heaven her eyes so blue
Alas! said she, this ghastly ride-
Dear lady! it hath wilder'd you !
The lady wiped her moist cold brow,
And faintly said, “ 'Tis over now !"
But through her brain of weal and wo
So many thoughts moved to and fro,
That vain it were her lids to close ;
So halfway from the bed she rose,
A star hath set, a star hath risen,
O Geraldine ! since arms of thine
Have been the lovely lady's prison.
O Geraldine ! one hour was thine
Thou'st had thy will! By tairn and rill,
The night-birds all that hour were still.
But now they are jubilant anew,
From cliff and tower, tu-whoo! tu-whoo!
Tu-whoo! tu-whoo! from wood and fell!
And Geraldine shakes off her dread,
And rises lightly from the bed ;
Puts on her silken vestments white,
And tricks her hair in lovely plight,
And, nothing doubting of her spell,
Awakens the Lady Christabel.
“Sleep you, sweet Lady Christabel?
I trust that you have rested well.”
And see! the Lady Christabel
Gathers herself from out her trance;
Her limbs relax, her countenance
Grows sad and soft; the smooth thin lids
Close o'er her eyes; and tears she sheds-
Large tears that leave the lashes bright!
And oft the while she seems to smile
As infants at a sudden light !
And Christabel awoke, and spied
The same who lay down by her side
O rather say, the same whom she
Raised up beneath the old oak tree!
Nay, fairer yet! and yet more fair!
For she belike hath drunken deep
Of all the blessedness of sleep!
And while she spake, her looks, her air
Such gentle thankfulvess declare,
That (so it seem’d) her girded vests
Grew tight beneath her heaving breasts.
“ Sure I have sinn'd," said Christabel,
“ Now Heaven be praised, if all be well;
And in low faltering tones, yet sweet,
Did she the lofty lady greet
With such perplexity of mind
As dreams too lively leave behind.
Yea, she doth smile, and she doth weep,
Like a youthful hermitess,
Beauteous in a wilderness,
Who, praying always, prays in sleep,
And, if she move unquietly,
Perchance, 'tis but the blood so free,
Comes back and tingles in her feet.
No doubt, she hath a vision sweet:
What if her guardian spirit 'twere,
What if she knew her mother near?
But this she knows, in joys and woes,
That saints will aid if men will call:
For the blue sky bends over all !
So quickly she rose, and quickly array'd
Her maiden limbs, and having pray'd
That He, who on the cross did groan,
Might wash away her sins unknown,
She forth with led fair Geraldine
To meet her sire, Sir Leoline.
The lovely maid and the lady tall
Are pacing both into the hall,
And, pacing on through page and groom,
Enter the baron's presence-room.
Each matin-Vell, the baron saith,
Knells us back to a world of death.
These words Sir Leoline first said,
When he rose and found his lady dead:
These words Sir Leoline will say,
Many a morn to his dying day!
And hence the custom and law began,
That still at dawn the sacristan,
Who duly pulls the heavy bell,
Five-and-forty beads must tell
Between each stroke-a warning knell,
Which not a soul can choose but hear
From Bratha Head to Wyndermere.
The baron rose, and while he prest
His gentle daughter to his breast,
With cheerful wonder in his eyes
The Lady Geraldine espies,
And gave such welcome to the same,
As might beseem so bright a dame!
But when he heard the lady's tale,
And when she told her father's name,
Why wax'd Sir Leoline so pale,
Murmuring o'er the name again,
Lord Roland de Vaux of Tryermaine ?
Saith Bracy the bard, So let it knell !
And let the drowsy sacristan
Sull count as slowly as he can!
There is no lack of such, I ween,
As well fill up the space between.
In Langdale Pike and Witch's Lair
And dungeon-ghyll so foully rent,
With ropes of rock and bells of air
Three sinful sextons' ghosts are pent,
Who all give back, one after t'other,
The death-note to their living brother;
And oft, too, by the knell offended,
Just as their one! two! three! is ended,
The devil mocks the doleful tale
With a merry peal from Borrowdale.
The air is still! through mist and cloud
That merry peal comes ringing loud;
Alas! they had been friends in youth;
But whispering tongues can poison truth ;
And constancy lives in realms above,
And life is thorny; and youth is vain :
And to be wroth with one we love,
Doth work like madness in the brain.
And thus it chanced, as I divine
With Roland and Sir Leoline.
Each spake words of high disdain
And insult to his heart's best brother:
They parted—ne'er to meet again!
But never either found another
To free the hollow heart from paining-
They stood aloof, the scars remaining,