Слике страница
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

Then, auswering from the sandy shore,

O'er northern mountain, marsh, and moor,
Half-drown'd amid the breakers' roar,

From sea to sea, from shore to shore,
According chorus rose.

Seven years Saint Cuthbert's corpse they bore.
Down to the haven of the Isle,

They rested them in fair Melrose ;
The monks and nuns in order file,

But though, alive, he loved it well,
From Cuthbert's cloisters grim;

Not there bis relics might repose ;
Banner, and cross, and reliques there,

For, wondrous tale to tell!
To meet Saint Hilda's maids, they bare ;

In his stone coffin forth he rides,
And, as they caught the sounds on air,

(A ponderous bark for river tides,)
They echoed back the bymn.

Yet light as gossamer it glides,
The islanders, in joyous mood,

Downward to Tillmouth cell.
Rush'd emulously through the flood,

Nor long was his abiding there,
To hale the bark to land ;

For southward did the saint repair ;
Conspicuous by her veil and hood,

Chester-le Street, and Rippon, saw
Signing the cross the abbess stood,

His holy corpse, ere Wardilaw
And bless'd them with her hand.

Hail'd him with joy and fear;
XII.

And, after many wanderings past,

He chose his lordly seat at last,
Suppose we now the welcome said,

Where his cathedral, huge and vast,
Suppose the convent banquet made;

Looks down upon the Wear.
All through the holy dome,

There, decp in Durham's Gothic shade,
Through cloister, aisle, and gallery,

His relics are in secret laid ;
Wherever vestal maid might pry,

But none may know the place,
Nor risk to meet unhallow'd eye,

Save of his holiest servants three,
The stranger sisters roam ;

Deep sworn to solemn secrecy,
Till sell the evening damp with dew,

Who share that wondrous grace.
And the sharp seabreeze coldly blew,
For there, e'en summer night is chill.

XV.
Then, having stray'd and gazed their fill,

Who may his miracles declare !
They closed around the fire;

E’en Scotland's dauntless king, and heir
And all, in turn, essay'd to paint

(Although with them they led
The rival merits of their saint,

Galwegians, wild as ocean's gale,
A theme that ne'er can tire

And London's knights, all sheathed in mail,
A holy maid ; for, be it known,

And the bold men of Teviotdale,)
That their saint's honour is their own.

Before his standard fed.
XIII.

'Twas he, to vindicate his reign,
Then Whitby's nuns exulting told,

Edged Alfred's falchion on the Dane,
How to their house three baron's bold

And turn'd the conqueror back again,
Must menial service do ;

When, with his Norman bowyer band,
While horns blow out a note of shame,

He came to waste Northumberland.
And monks cry,“ Fy upon your name !

XVI.
In wrath, for loss of sylvan game,
Saint Hilda's priest ye slew."

But fain Saint Hilda's nuns would learn, “ This, on Ascension-day, each year,

If, on a rock, by Lindisfarn,
While labouring on our barbour-pier,

Saint Cuthbert sits, and toils to frame
Must Herbert, Bruce, and Percy bear.”

The seaborn beads that bear his name:
They told how, in their convent cell,

Such tales had Whitby's fishers told,
A Saxon princess once did dwell,

And said they might his shape behold,
The lovely Edelfed ;

And hear his anvil sound;
And how, of thousand snakes, each one

A deadend clang, a huge dim form,
Was changed into a coil of stone,

Seen but, and heard, when gathering storm,
When holy Hilda pray'd.

And night were closing round.
Themselves, within their holy bound,

But this, as tale of idle fame,
Their stony folds had often found.

The nuns of Lindisfarn disclaim.
They told, how seafowls' pinions fail,

XVII.
As over Whitby's towers they sail,

While round the fire such legends go,
And, sinking down, with flutterings faint,

Far different was the scene of wo,
They do their homage to the saint.

Where, in a secret aisle beneath,
XIV.

Council was held of life and death.
Nor did Saint Cuthbert's daughters fail

It was more dark and lone, that vault,
To vie with these in holy tale ;

Than the worst dungeon cell;
His body's resting-place, of old,

Old Colwulf built it, for his fault,
How oft their patron changed, they told;

In penitence to dwell,
How, when the rude Dane buro'd their pile, When he, for cowl and beads, laid down
The monks fled forth from Holy Isle ;

The Saxon battle-axe and crown.

This den, which, chilling every sense

Of feeling, hearing, sight,
Was call’d the vault of penitence,

Excluding air and light,
Was, by the prelate Sexhelm, made
A place of burial, for such dead
As, having died in mortal sin,
Might not be laid the church within.
'Twas now a place of punishment;
Whence, if so loud a shriek were sent,

As reach'd the upper air,
The hearers bless'd themselves, and said,
The spirits of the sinful dead
Bemoan'd their torments there.

XVIII.
But though, in the monastic pile,
Did of this penitential aisle

Some vague tradition go,
Few only, save the abbot, knew
Where the place lay; and still more few
Were those, who had from him the clew

To that dread vault to go. Victim and executioner Were blindfold when transported there. In low dark rounds the arches hung, From the rude rock the side walls sprung; The gravestones rudely sculptured o’er, Half sunk in earth, by time half wore, Were all the pavement of the floor; The mildew drops fell one by one, With tinkling plash, upon the stone. A cresset,* in an iron chain, Which served to light this drear domain, With damp and darkness seem'd to strive, As if it scarce might keep alive; And yet it dimly served to show The awful conclave met below.

XIX.
There, met to doom in secrecy,
Were placed the heads of convents three;
All servants of Saint Benedict,
The statutes of whose orders strict

On iron table lay;
In long black dress, on seats of stone,
Behind were these three judges shown,

By the pale cresset's ray:
The abbess of Saint Hilda, there,
Sate for a space with visage bare,
Until, to hide her bosom's swell,
And teardrops that for pity fell,

She closely drew her veil:
Yon shrouded figure, as I guess,
By her proud mien and flowing dress,
Is Tynemouth's haughty prioress,

And she with awe looks pale:
And he, that ancient man, whose sight
Has long been quench'd by age's night,
Upon whose wrinkled brow alone,
Nor ruth, nor mercy's trace is shown,

Whose look is hard and stern,-
Saint Cuthbert's abbot is his style :
For sanctity call'd through the isle,

The Saint of Lindisfarn.

XX.
Before them stood a guilty pair ;
But, though an equal fate they share,
Yet one alone deserves our care.
Her sex a page's dress belied;
The cloke and doublet, loosely tied,
Obscured her charms, but could not hide.
Her cap down o'er her face she drew;

And, on her doublet-breast,
She tried to hide the badge of blue,

Lord Marmion's falcon crest.
But, at the prioress' command,
A monk undid the silken band,

That tied her tresses fair,
And raised the bonnet from her head,
And down her slender form they spread,

In ringlets rich and rare.
Constance de Beverly they know,
Sister profess'd of Fontevraud,
Whom the church number'd with the dead,
For broken vows, and convent fled.

XXI.
When thus her face was given to view,
(Although so pallid was her hue,
It did a ghastly contrast bear,
To those bright ringlets, glistening fair,)
Her look composed, and steady eye,
Bespoke a matchless constancy.
And there she stood so calm, and pale,
That, but her breathing did not fail,
A motion slight of eye and head,
And of her bosom, warranted,
That neither sense nor pulse she lacks,
You might have thought a form of wax,
Wrought to the very life, was there :
So still she was, so pale, so fair.

XXII.
Her comrade was a sordid soul,

Such as does murder for a meed;
Who, but of fear, knows no control,
Because bis conscience, seard and foul,

Feels not the import of his deed; One, whose brute-feeling ne'er aspires Beyond his own more brute desires. Such tools the tempter ever needs, To do the savagest of deeds ; For them, no vision'd terrors daunt, Their nights no fancied spectres haunt; One fear with them, of all most base, The fear of death,-alone finds place. This wretch was clad in frock and cowl, And shamed not loud to moan and howl, His body on the floor to dash, And crouch, like hound beneath the lash; While his mute partner, standing near, Waited her doom without a tear.

XXIII. Yet well the luckless wretch might shriek, Well might her paleness terrors speak, For there were seen, in that dark wall, Two niches, narrow, deep, and tall ;Who enters at each griesly door, Shall ne'er, I ween, find exit more.

* Antique chandelier.

In each a slender meal was laid,
Of roots, of water, and of bread:
By each, in Benedictine dress,
Two haggard monks stood motionless;
Who, holding high a blazing torch,
Show'd the grim entrance of the porch;
Reflecting back the smoky beam,
The dark-red walls and arches gleam.
Hewn stones and cement were display'd,
And building tools in order laid.

XXIV.
These executioners were chose,
As men who were with mankind foes.
And, with despite and envy fired,
Into the cloister had retired ;

Or who, in desperate doubt of grace,
Strove by deep penance to efface

Of some foul crime the stain;
For, as the vassals of her will,
Such men the church selected still,
As either joy'd in doing ill,

Or thought more grace to gain, If, in her cause, they wrestled down Feelings their nature strove to own. By strange device were they brought there, They knew not how, and knew not where.

Nor do I speak your prayers to gain ;
For if a death of lingering pain,
To cleanse my sins, be penance vain,

Vain are your masses, too.--
I listen'd to a traitor's tale,
I left the convent and the veil,
For three long years I bow'd my pride,
A horse-boy in his train to ride ;
And well my folly's meed he gave,
Who forfeited, to be his slave,
All here, and all beyond the grave.-
He saw young Clara's face inore fair,
He knew her of broad lands the heir,
Forgot his vows, his faith forswore,
And Constance was beloved no more,
'Tis an old tale, and often told;

But, did my fate and wish agree,
Ne'er had been read, in story old,
Of maiden true betray'd for gold,
That loved, or was avenged, like me!

XXVIII.
“ The king approved his favourite's aim;
In vain a rival barr'd his claim,

Whose faith with Clare's was plight,
For he attaints that rival's fame
With treason's charge—and on they came,
In mortal lists to fight.

Their oaths are said,
Their prayers are pray'd,

Their lances in the rest are laid,
They meet in mortal shock;
And hark! the throng, with thundering cry
Shout · Marmion, Marmion, to the sky !

De Wilton to the block !'
Say ye, who preach Heaven shall decide,
When in the lists two champions ride,

Say, was Heaven's justice here?
When, loyal in his love and faith,
Wilton found overthrow or death,

Beneath a traitor's spear. How false the charge, how true he fell, This guilty packet best can tell."Then drew a packet from her breast, Paused, gather'd voice, and spoke the rest.

XXV.
And now that blind old abbot rose,

To speak the chapter's doom,
On those the wall was to enclose,

Alive, within the tomb; But stopp'd because that woful maid, Gathering her powers, to speak essay'd. Twice she essay'd, and twice, in vain ; Her accents might no utterance gain ; Naught but imperfect murmurs slip From her convulsed and quivering lip:

'Twixt each attempt all was so still, You secm'd to hear a distant rill

'Twas ocean's swells and falls; For though this vault of sin and fear Was to the sounding surge so near, A tempest there you scarce could hear;

So massive were the walls.

XXVI.
At length, an effort sent apart
The blood that curdled to her heart,

And light came to her eye ;
And colour dawn'd upon her cheek,
A hectic and a flutter'd streak,
Like that left on the Cheviot peak,

By autumn's stormy sky;
And when her silence broke at length,
Still as she spoke she gather'd strength,

And arm'd herself to bear;
It was a fearful sight to see
Such high resolve and constancy,

In form so soft and fair.

XXIX. “ Still was false Marmion's bridal staid: To Whitby's convent Aed the maid,

The hated match to shun. • Ho! shifts she thus ?" King Henry cried, • Sir Marmion, she shall be thy bride,

If she were sworn a nun.'
One way remain'd—the king's command
Sent Marmion to the Scottish land:
I linger'd here a rescue plann'd

For Clara and for me:
This caitiff monk, for gold, did swear,
He would to Whitby's shrine repair,
And, by his drugs, my rival fair

A saint in heaven should be.
But ill the dastard kept his oath,
Whose cowardice has undone us both.

XXX.
“And now my tongue the secret tells,
Now that remorse my bosom swells,

XXVII. “ I speak not to implore your grace ; Well know I, for one minute's space

Successless might I sue:

But to assure my soul, that none
Shall ever wed with Marmion.
Had fortune my last hope betray'd,
This packet to the king convey'd,
Had given him to the headsman's stroke,
Although my heart that instant broke.
Now, men of death, work forth your will,
For I can suffer, and be still;
And, come he slow, or come he fast,
It is but Death who comes at last.

And bade the passing knell to toll
For welfare of a parting soul.
Slow o’er the midnight wave it swung,
Northumbrian rocks in answer rung;
To Warkworth cell the echoes rollid,
His beads the wakeful hermit told;
The Bamborough peasant raised his head,
But slept ere half his prayer he said ;
So far was heard the mighty knell,
The stag sprung up on Cheviot Fell,
Spread his broad nostrils to the wind,
Listed before, aside, behind,
Then couch'd him down beside the hind,
And quaked among the mountain fern,
To hear that sound so dull and stern.

INTRODUCTION TO CANTO IIL.

XXXI. “ Yet dread me, from my living tomb, Ye vassal slaves of bloody Rome! If Marmion's late remorse should wake, Full soon such vengeance will be take, That you shall wish the fiery Dane Had rather been your guest again. Behind, a darker hour ascends! The altars quake, the crosier bends, The ire of a despotic king Rides forth upon destruction's wing. Then shall these vaults, so strong and deep, Burst open to the sea-wind's sweep; Some traveller then shall find my bones, Whitening amid disjointed stones, And, ignorant of priests' cruelty, Marvel such relics here should be."

XXXII. Fix'd was her look, and stern her air ; Back from her shoulders stream'd her hair; The locks, that wont her brow to shade, Stared up erectly from her head; Her figure seem'd to rise more high ; Her voice, despair's wild energy Had given a tone of prophecy. Appall’d the astonish'd conclave sate; With stupid eyes, the men of fate Gazed on the late inspired form, And listend for the avenging storm; The judges felt the victim's dread; No hand was moved, no word was said, Till thus the abbot's doom was given, Raising bis sightless balls to heaven :“ Sister let thy sorrows cease ; Sinful brother, part in peace !” From that dire dungeon, place of doom Of execution, too, and tomb,

Paced forth the judges three;
Sorrow it were, and shame, to tell
The butcher-work that there befel,
When they had glided from the cell
Of sin and misery.

XXXIII.
A hundred winding steps convey
That conclave to the upper day;
But, ere they breathed the fresher air,
They heard the shriekings of despair,

And many a stifled groan:
With speed their upward way they take,
(Such speed as age and fear can make,)

And cross'd themselves for terror's sake, As hurrying, tottering on; E’en in the vesper's heavenly tone They seem'd to hear a dying groan,

TO WILLIAM ERSKINE, ESQ.

Ashestiel, Ettrick Forest. LIKE April morning clouds, that pass, With varying shadow, o'er the grass, And imitate, on field and furrow; Life checker'd scene of joy and sorrow; Like streamlet of the mountain north, Now in a torrent racing forth, Now winding slow its silver train, And almost slumbering on the plain; Like breezes of the autumn day, Whose voice inconstant dies away, And ever swells again as fast, When the ear deems its murmur past; Thus various, my romantic theme Flits, winds, or sinks, a morning dream. Yet pleased, our eye pursues the trace Of light and shade's inconstant race; Pleased, views the rivulet afar, Weaving its maze irregular; And pleased, we listen as the breeze Heaved its wild sigh through autumn trees; Then wild as cloud, or stream, or gale, Flow on, flow unconfined, my tale. Need I to thee, dear Erskine, tell, I love the license all too well, In sounds now lowly, and now strong, To raise the desultory song ? Ost, when 'mid such capricious chime, Some transient fit of lofty rhyme, To thy kind judgment seem'd excuse For many an error of the muse; Oft hast thou said, “If, still mis-spent, Thine hours to poetry are lent: Go, and, to tame thy wandering course, Quaff from the fountain at the source ; Approach those masters, o'er whose tomb, Immortal laurels ever bloom : Instructive of the feebler bard, Still from the grave their voice is heard ; From them, and from the path they show'd Choose honour'd guide and practised road; Nor ramble on through brake and maze, With harpers rude of barbarous day.

“Or, deem'st thou not our later time, Yields topic meet for classic rhyme ?

[ocr errors]

Hast thou no elegiac verse

Thy friendship thus thy judgment wrongFor Brunswick's venerable hearse ?

ing,
What! not a line, a tear, a sigh,

With praises not to me belonging,
When valour bleeds for liberty!

In task more meet for mightiest powers,
O, hero of that glorious time,

Wouldst thou engage my thriftless hours.
When, with unrivalla light sublime,-

But say, my Erskine, hast thou weigh'd
Though martial Austria, and though all

That secret power by all obey'd,
The might of Russia, and the Gaul,

Which warps not less the passive mind,
Though banded Europe stood her foes-

Its source conceal'd or undefined;
The star of Brandenburgh arose !

Whether an impulse, that has birth
Thou couldst not live to see her beam

Soon as the infant wakes on earth,
Forever quench'd in Jena's stream.

One with our feelings and our powers,
Lamented chief !-It was not given,

And rather part of us than ours;
To thee to change the doom of heaven,

Or whether titlier term’d the sway
And crush that dragon in its birth,

Of habit, form'd in early day?
Predestined scourge of guilty earth.

Howe'er derived, its force confess'd
Lamented chief -not thine the power,

Rules with despotic sway the breast,
To save in that presumptuous hour,

And drags us on by viewless chain,
When Prussia hurried to the field,

While taste and reason plead in vain.
And spatch'd the spear, but left the shield ! Look east, and ask the Belgian why,
Valour and skill 'twas thine to try,

Beneath Batavia's sultry sky,
And, tried in vain, 'twas thine to die.

He seeks not, eager to inhale,
Ill had it seem'd thy silver hair

The freshness of the mountain gale,
The last, the bitterest pang to share,

Content to rear his whiten'd wall
For princedoms reft, and scutcheons riven, Beside the dank and dull canal ?
And birthrights to usurpers given ;

He'll say, from youth he loved to see
Thy lands, thy children's wrongs to feel,

The white sail gliding by the tree.
And witness woes thou couldst not heal!

Or see yon weather-beaten hind,
On thee relenting heaven bestows

Whose sluggish herds before him wind,
For honour'd life an honour'd close ;

Whose tatter'd plaid and rugged cheek
And when revolves, in time's sure change, His northern clime and kindred speak;
The hour of Germany's revenge,

Through England's laughing meads he goes,
When, breathing fury for her sake,

And England's wealth around him flows;
Some new Arminius shall awake.

Ask, if it would content him well,
Her champion, ere he strike, shall come

At ease in these gay plains to dwell,
To whet his sword on Brunswick's tomb.

Where hedge-rows spread a verdant screen, “ Or of the Red-Cross hero teach,

And spires and forests intervene,
Dauntless in dungeon as on breach :

And the neat cottage peeps between ?
Alike to him the sea, the shore,

No, not for these will he exchange
The brand, the bridal, or the oar;

His dark Lochaber's boundless range ;
Alike to him the war that calls

Nor for fair Devon's meads forsake
Its votaries to the shatter'd walls

Bennevis gray and Garry's lake.
Which the grim Turks besmear'd with blood, Thus, while I ape the measure wild
Against the invincible made good;

Of tales that charm’d me yet a child,
Or that, whose thundering voice could wake Rude though they be, still with the chime,
The silence of the polar lake,

Return the thoughts of early time;
When stubborn Russ, and metallid Swede, And feelings, roused in life's first day,
On the warp'd wave their death-game play'd ; Glow in the line, and prompt the lay.
Or that, where vengeance and affright

Then rise those crags, that mountain tower,
Howl'd round the father of the fight,

Which charm'd my fancy's wakening hour.
Who snatch'd, on Alexander's sand,

Though no broad river swept along
The conqueror's wreath with dying hand.

To claim, perchance, heroic song ;
“Or, if to touch such chord be thine,

Though sigh'd no groves in summer gale,
Restore the ancient tragic line,

To prompt of love a softer tale ;
And emulate the notes that rung

Though scarce a puny streamlet's speed
From the wild harp, which silent hung,

Claim'd homage from a shepherd's reed;
By silver Avon's holy shore,

Yet was poetic impulse given,
Till twice an hundred years rollid o'er ;

By the green hill and clear blue heaven.
When she, the bold enchantress, came,

It was a barren scene, and wild,
With fearless hand and heart on flame!

Where naked cliffs were rudely piled;
From the pale willow snatch'd the treasure, But ever and anon between
And swept it with a kindred measure ;

Lay velvet tufts of loveliest green ;
Till Avon's swans, while rung the grove

And well the lonely infant knew
With Montfort's hate and Basil's love,

Recesses where the wall-flower grew,
Awakening at th’inspired strain,

And honeysuckle loved to crawl
Deem'd their own Shakspeare lived again.” Up the low crag and ruin'd wall.
81

3 1 2

« ПретходнаНастави »