Part 1 out of 3
These facsimiles have been made from copies in the Yale University
Library _The Lay of Marie_ (In.B4645.816L) and the British Library
Reprint of the 1816 and 1818 eds.
THE LAY OF MARIE
VIGNETTES IN VERSE
with an introduction for the Garland edition by Donald H. Reiman
THE LAY OF MARIE: A POEM
To whom,--as Fancy, taking longer flight,
With folded arms upon her heart's high swell,
Floating the while in circles of delight,
And whispering to her wings a sweeter spell
Than she has ever aim'd or dar'd before--
Shall I address this theme of minstrel lore?
To whom but her who loves herself to roam
Through tales of earlier times, and is at home
With heroes and fair dames, forgotten long,
But for romance, and lay, and lingering song?
To whom but her, whom, ere my judgment knew,
Save but by intuition, false from true,
Seem'd to me wisdom, goodness, grace combin'd;
The ardent heart; the lively, active mind?
To whom but her whose friendship grows more dear,
And more assur'd, for every lapsing year?
One whom my inmost thought can worthy deem
Of love, and admiration, and esteem!
As there is little, in all I have been able to collect respecting MARIE,
which has any thing to do with the Poem, I have chosen to place such
information at the end of the book, in form of an Appendix, rather than
here; where the only things necessary to state are, that she was an
Anglo-Norman Minstrel of the thirteenth century; and as she lived at the
time of our losing Normandy, I have connected her history with that
event: that the young king who sees her in his progress through his
foreign possessions is our Henry III.; and the Earl William who steps
forward to speak in her favour is William Longsword, brother to Richard
Coeur de Lion. Perhaps there is no record of minstrels being called upon
to sing at a feast in celebration of a victory which involves their own
greatest possible misfortune; but such an incident is not of improbable
occurrence. It is likely, also, that a woman, said to be more learned,
accomplished, and pleasing, than was usually the case with those of her
profession, might have a father, who, with the ardour, the disobedience,
the remorse of his heroic master, had been, like him, a crusader and a
captive; and in the after solitude of self-inflicted penitence, full of
romantic and mournful recollections, fostered in the mind of his
daughter, by nature embued with a portion of his own impassioned
feelings, every tendency to that wild and poetical turn of thought which
qualified her for a minstrel; and, after his death, induced her to
* * * * *
The union of European and Eastern beauty, in the person of Marie, I have
attempted to describe as lovely as possible. The consciousness of noble
birth, of injurious depression, and the result of that education which
absorbed the whole glowing mind of a highly gifted parent, a mind rich
with adventures, with enthusiasm and tenderness, ought to be pourtrayed
in her deportment; while the elegance and delicacy which more
particularly distinguish the gentlewoman, would naturally be imbibed
from a constant early association with a model of what the chivalrous
spirit of the age could form, with all its perfections and its faults;
in a situation, too, calculated still more to refine such a character;
especially with one who was the centre of his affections and regrets,
and whom he was so soon to leave unprotected. That, possessing all these
advantages, notwithstanding her low station, she should be beloved by,
and, on the discovery of her birth, married to a young nobleman, whose
high favour with his sovereign would lead him to hope such an offence
against the then royal prerogative of directing choice would be deemed a
venial one, is, I should think, an admissible supposition.
* * * * *
That a woman would not be able to sing under such afflicting
circumstances might be objected; but history shews us, scarcely any
exertion of fortitude or despair is too great to be looked for in that
total deprivation of all worldly interest consequent to such
misfortunes. Whether that train of melancholy ideas which her own fate
suggests is sufficiently removed from narration to be natural, or not
near it enough to be clear, the judgment of others must determine. No
wish or determination to have it one way or another, in sentiment,
stile, or story, influenced its composition; though, occasionally, lines
previously written are interwoven; and, in one instance, a few that have
* * * * *
Her Twelve Lays are added in a second Appendix, as curious in
themselves, and illustrative of the manners and morals of an age when
they formed the amusement of the better orders.
THE LAY OF MARIE.
The guests are met, the feast is near,
But Marie does not yet appear!
And to her vacant seat on high
Is lifted many an anxious eye.
The splendid show, the sumptuous board,
The long details which feuds afford,
And discontent is prone to hold,
Absorb the factious and the cold;--
Absorb dull minds, who, in despair,
The standard grasp of worldly care,
Which none can quit who once adore--
They love, confide, and hope no more;
Seek not for truth, nor e'er aspire
To nurse that immaterial fire,
From whose most healthful warmth proceed
Each real joy and generous deed;
Which, once extinct, no toil or pain
Can kindle into life again,
To light the then unvarying eye,
To melt, in question or reply,
Those tones, so subtil and so sweet,
That none can look for, none repeat;
Which, self-impell'd, defy controul,--
They bear the signet of the soul;
And, as attendants of their flight,
Enforce persuasion and delight.
Words that an instant have reclin'd
Upon the pillow of the mind,
Or caught, upon their rapid way,
The beams of intellectual day,
Pour fresh upon the thirsty ear,
O'erjoy'd, and all awake to hear,
Proof that in other hearts is known
The secret language of our own.
They to the way-worn pilgrim bring
A draught from Rapture's sparkling spring;
And, ever welcome, are, when given,
Like some few scatter'd flowers from heaven;
Could such in earthly garlands twine,
To bloom by others less divine.
Where does this idle Minstrel stay?
Proud are the guests, august the day;
And princes of the realm attend
The triumph of their sovereign's friend;--
Triumph of stratagem and fight
Gain'd o'er a young and gallant knight,
Who, the last fort compell'd to yield,
Perish'd, despairing, in the field.
The Norman Chief, whose sudden blow
Had laid fair England's banner low;
Spite of resistance firm and bold
Secur'd the latest, surest hold
Its sceptre touch'd across the main,
Important, difficult to gain,
Easy against her to retain;--
Baron de Brehan--seem'd to stand
An alien in his native land;
One whom no social ties endear'd
Except his child; and she appear'd
Unconsciously to prompt his toil,--
Unconsciously to take the spoil
Of hate and treason; and, 'twas said,
The pillage of a kinsman dead,
Whom, for his large domain, he slew:
'Twas whisper'd only,--no one knew.
At tale of murderous deed, his ear
No startling summons seem'd to hear;
Yet should some sudden theme intrude
Of friend betray'd--ingratitude;--
Or treacherous counsel--follies nurs'd
In ardent minds, who, dying, curs'd
The guileful author of their woes;
His troubled look would then disclose
Some secret anguish, inward care,
Which mutely, sternly, said, Forbear!
He spake of policy and right,
Of bold exploits in recent fight,--
Of interest, and the common weal,
Of distant empire, slow appeal.
Skill'd to elicit thoughts unknown
In other minds, and hide his own,
His brighter eye, in darting round
Their purposes and wishes found.
Praises, and smiles, and promise play'd
Around his speech; which yet convey'd
No meaning, when, the moment past,
Memory retold her stores at last.
Courtiers were there, the old and young,
Of high and haughty lineage sprung;
And jewell'd matrons: some had been,
Erewhile, spectators of a scene
Like this, with mien and manners gay;
Who now, their hearts consum'd away,
Held all the pageant in disdain,
And seem'd to smile and speak with pain.
Of such were widows, who deplor'd
Husbands long lost, but still ador'd;
To grace their children, fierce and proud,
Like martyrs led into the crowd:
Mothers, their sole remaining stay,
In some dear son, late snatch'd away;
Whose duty made them better brook
Their lords' high tone and careless look;
Whose praises had awaken'd pride
In bosoms dead to all beside.
Warriors, infirm with battles grown,
Were there, in languid grandeur thrown
On the low bench, who seem'd to say,
"Our mortal vigour wanes away;"
And gentle maid, with aspect meek,
While cloud-like blushes cross her cheek,
Restless awaits the Minstrel's power
To dispossess the present hour,
And by a spirit-seizing charm,
Her thoughts employ, her fancy warm,
And snatch her from the mute distress
Of conscious, breathless bashfulness.
Young knights, who never tamely wait,
Crowd in the porch, or near the gate,
By quick return, and sudden throng,
Announcing the expected song.
The Minstrel comes, and, by command,
Before the nobles of the land,
In her poor order's simple dress,
Grac'd only by the native tress,
A flowing mass of yellow'd light,
Whose bold swells gleam with silver bright,
And dove-like shadows sink from sight.
Those long, soft locks, in many a wave
Curv'd with each turn her figure gave;
Thick, or if threatening to divide,
They still by sunny meshes hide;
Eluding, by commingling lines,
Whatever severs or defines.
Amid the crowd of beauties there,
None were so exquisitely fair;
And, with the tender, mellow'd air,
The taper, flexile, polish'd limb,
The form so perfect, yet so slim,
And movement, only thought to grace
The dark and yielding Eastern race;
As if on pure and brilliant day
Repose, as soft as moonlight, lay.
Reluctant still she seem'd,--her feet
Sought slowly the appointed seat:
Her hand, oft lifting to her head,
She lightly o'er her forehead spread;
Then the unconscious motion check'd,
And, struggling with her own neglect,
Seem'd as she but by effort found
The presence of an audience round.
Meanwhile the murmurings died away
Which spake impatience of delay:
A pitying wonder, new and kind,
Arose in each beholder's mind:
They saw no scorn to meet reproof,
No arrogance to keep aloof;
Her air absorb'd, her sadden'd mien,
Combin'd the mourning, captive queen,
With _her_ who at the altar stands
To raise aloft her spotless hands,
In meek and persevering prayer,
For such as falter in despair.
All that was smiling, bright, and gay,
Youth's show of triumph during May,
Its roseate crown, was snatch'd away!
Yet sorrows, which had come so soon,
Like tender morning dew repos'd,
O'er hope and joy as softly clos'd
As moist clouds on the light at noon.
Opprest by some heart-withering pang,
Upon her harp she seem'd to hang
Awhile o'erpower'd--then faintly sang:
"Demand no lay of long-past times;
Of foreign loves, or foreign crimes;
Demand no visions which arise
To Rapture's eager, tearless eyes!
Those who can travel far, I ween,
Whose strength can reach a distant scene,
And measure o'er large space of ground,
Have not, like me, a deadly wound!
Near home, perforce, alas, I stray,
Perforce pursue my destin'd way,
Through scenes where all my trouble grows,
And where alone remembrance flows.
Like evening swallows, still my wings
Float round in low, perpetual rings;
But never fold the plume for rest
One moment in the tranquil nest;
And have no strength to reach the skies,
No power, no hope, no wish to rise!
"Blame me not, _Fancy_, if I now restrain
Thy wandering footsteps, now thy wings confine;
Tis the decree of Fate,--it is not mine!
For I would let thee free and widely stray--
Would follow gladly, tend thee on thy way,
And never of the devious track complain,
Never thy wild and sportive flights disdain!
Though reasonless those graceful moods may be,
They still, alas! were passing sweet to me.
"Unhappy that I am, compell'd to bind
This murmuring captive! one who ever strove
By each endearing art to win my love;
Who, ever unoffending, ever bright,
Danc'd in my view, and pleas'd me to delight!
She scatter'd showers of lilies on my mind;
For, oh! so fair, so fresh, and so refin'd,
Her child-like offerings, without thorns to pain,
Without one canker'd wound, or earthly stain.
"And, _darling!_ as my trembling fingers twine
Those fetters round thee, they are wet with tears!
For the sweet playmate of my early years
I cannot thus afflict, nor thus resign
My equal liberty, and not repine!
For I had made thee, infant as thou art,
Queen of my hopes, my leisure, and my heart;
Given thee its happiest laugh, its sweetest tear,
And all I found or conquer'd every year.
"I blame me now I let thy sports offend
Old Time, and laid thy snare within his path
To make him falter, as it often hath;
For he grew angry soon, and held his breath,
And hurried on, in frightful league with Death,
To make the way through which my footsteps bend,
Late rich in all that social scenes attend,
A desert; and with thee I droop, I die,
Beneath the look of his malignant eye.
"Me do triumphant heroes call
To grace with harp their festal hall?
O! must my voice awake the song?--
My skill the artful tale prolong?
Yes! I am call'd--it is my doom!
Unhappily, ye know not whom,
Nor what, impatient ye demand!
How hostile now the fever'd hand,
Across these chords unwilling thrown,
To echo plainings of my own!
Little indeed can ye divine
What song ye ask who call for mine!
"Till now, before the courtly crowd
I humbly and I gaily bow'd;
The blush was not to shame allied
Which on my glowing cheek I wore;
No lowly seemings pain'd nay pride,
My heart was laughing at the core;
And sometimes, as the stream of song
Bore me with eddying haste along,
My father's spirit would arise,
And speak strange meaning from these eyes,
At which a conscious cheek would quail,
A stern and lofty bearing fail:
Then could a chieftain condescend
In me to recognize his friend!
Then could a warrior low incline
His eye, when it encounter'd mine!
A tone can make the guilty start!
A glance can pierce the conscious heart,
Encountering memory in its flight,
Most waywardly! Such wounds are slight;
But I withdraw the painful light!
"Fair lords and princes! many a time
For you I wove my pictur'd rhyme;
Refin'd new thoughts and fancies crude
In deep and careful solitude;
'And, when my task was finish'd, came
To seek the meed of praise or blame;
While, even then, untir'd I strove
To serve beneath the yoke of love.
Whene'er I mark'd a fearful look,
When pride, or when resentment, spoke,
I bent the tenor of my strain,
And trembled lest it were in vain.
By many an undiscover'd wile
I brought the pallid lip to smile,
Clear'd the maz'd thought for ampler scope,
Sustain'd the flagging wings of hope;
And threw a mantle over care
Such as the blooming Graces wear!
I made the friend resist his pride,
Scarce aiming what he felt to hide
From other eyes, his own implor'd
That kindness were again restor'd.
As generous themes engag'd my tongue
In pleadings for the fond and young:
Towards his child the father leant,
In fast-subsiding discontent:
I made that father's claims be felt,
And saw the rash, the stubborn, melt;
Nay, once, subdued, a rebel knelt.
"Thus skill'd, from pity's warm excess,
The aching spirit to caress;
Profuse of her ideal wealth,
And rich in happiness and health,
An alien, class'd among the poor,
Unheeded, from her precious store,
Its best and dearest tribute brought;
The zeal of high, adventurous thought,
The tender awe in yielding aid,
E'en of its own soft hand afraid!
Stealing, through shadows, forth to bless,
Her venturous service knew no bound;
Yet shrank, and trembled, when success
Its earnest, fullest wishes crown'd!
This alien sinks, opprest with woe,
And have you nothing to bestow?
No language kind, to sooth or cheer?--
No soften'd voice,--no tender tear?--
No promise which may hope impart?
No fancy to beguile the heart;
To chace those dreary thoughts away,
And waken from this deep dismay!
"Is it that station, power, or pride,
Can human sympathies divide?
Or is she deem'd a thing of art,
Form'd only to enact a part,
Whose nice perceptions all belong
To modulated thought and song,
And, in fictitious feeling thrown,
Lie waste or callous in her own?
"Is it from poverty of soul;
Or does some fear some doubt, controul?
So round the heart strong fibres strain,
That it attempts to beat in vain?
Does palsy on your feelings hang,
Deaden'd by some severer pang?
If so, behold, my eyes o'erflow!
For, O! that anguish well I know!
When once that fatal stroke is given,--
When once that finest nerve is riven,
Our love, our pity, all are o'er;
We even sooth ourselves no more!
"Back, hurrying feelings! to the time
I learnt to clothe my thoughts in rhyme!
When, climbing up my father's knees,
I gaily sang, secure to please!
Rounded his pale and wasted cheek,
And won him, in his turn, to speak:
When, for reward, I closer prest,
And whisper'd much, and much carest;
With timorous eye, and head aside,
Half ask'd, and laugh'd, and then denied;
Ere I again petition made
To hear the often-told crusade.
How, knowing hardship but by name,
Misled by friendship and by fame,
His parents' wishes he disdain'd,
With zeal, nor real quite, nor feign'd;
And fought on many a famous spot;--
The suffering of a captive's lot;
My Georgian mother's daring flight;
The day's concealment, march by night;
Her death, when, touching Christian ground,
They deem'd repose and safety found:
How, on his arm, by night and day,
I, then a happy infant, lay,
And taught him not to mourn, but pray.
How, when, at length, he reach'd his home,
His heart foretold a gentle doom;
With tears of fondness in his eyes,
Hoping to cause a glad surprize;
Full of submission, pondering o'er
What he too lightly priz'd before;
The curse with tenfold vengeance fell.--
Those who had lov'd him once so well,
In whose indulgence perfect trust
Had still been wise, though most unjust,
Were in the grave!--Their hearts were cold!
His penitence might still be told--
Told to the winds! for few would hear,
Or, hearing, deem that tale sincere
His patrimony's lord denied,
Who, hardening in possession's pride,
Affirm'd the rightful owner died.
"A victim from devouring strife,
And slavery, return'd with life;
Possessions, honours, parents gone,
The very hand that urg'd him on,
Now, by its stern repelling, tore
The veil that former falsehood wore!
"When he first bar'd his heart before thy view,
Told all its inmost beatings--told them true;
Nay, e'en the pulse, the secret, trembling thrill,
On which the slightest touch alone would trill [Errata: kill];
While thou, with secret aim, collected art,
Didst wind around that bold, confiding heart,
And, in its warm and healthful breathings fling
A subtle poison, and a deadly sting!
"Where shall we else so fell a traitor find?
The wilful, hard misleader of the blind
And what can be the soul-perverter's meed,
Plotting to lure his friend to such a deed,
As made self-hatred on the conscience lay
That heavy weight she never moves away?
O! where the good man's inner barriers close
'Gainst the world's cruel judgments, and his foes
Enfolding truth, and prayer, and soul's repose,
Thine is a mournful numbness, or a din,
For many strong accusers lurk within!
"And, since this fatal period, in thine eyes
A shrewd and unrelaxing witness lies;
While, on the specious language of the tongue,
Deceit has hateful, warning accents hung;
And outrag'd nature, struggling with a smile,
Announces nought but discontent and guile;
Each trace of fair, auspicious meaning flown,
All that makes man by man belov'd and known.
Silence, indignant thought! forego thy sway!
Silence! and let me measure on my way!
"Soul-struck, and yielding to his fate,
My father left his castle gate.
'Thou,' he would cry, with flowing eyes,
'That moment wert the sacrifice!
Little, alas! avails to thee
Wealth, honours, titles, ancestry;
All lost by me! I dar'd to lift
On high thy welfare, as a gift!
To save thee, dearest, dar'd resign
Thy worldly good! it was not mine!
But, O! I felt around thee twin'd
My very self,--my heart and mind!
All that may chance is dead to me,
Save only as it touches thee!
Could self-infliction but atone
For one who lives in thee alone;
If my repentance and my tears
Could spare thy future smiling years,
The fatal curse should only rest
Upon this firm, though guilty breast?
Yet, tendering from thy vessel's freight
Offerings of such exceeding weight,
And free thee from one earthly chain!
Envy and over-weening hate
Would on thy orphan greatness wait;
Folly that supple nature bend
For parasites to scorn thy friend;
And pamper'd vanity incline
To wilful blindness such as mine!
"'Thee to the altar yet I bring!
Hear me, my Saviour and my King!
Again I for my child resign
All worldly good! but make her thine!
Let her soft footsteps gently move,
Nor waken grief, nor injure love;
Carelessly trampling on the ground
That priceless gem, so rarely found;
That treasure, which, should angels guard,
Would all their vigilance reward!
"'My mind refuses still to fear
She should be cold or insincere;
That aught like meanness should debase
One of our rash and wayward race,
No! most I dread intemperate pride,
Deaf ardour, reckless, and untried,
With firm controul and skilful rein,
Its hurrying fever to restrain!
"'Others might wish their soul's delight
Should be most lovely to the sight;
And beauty vainly I ador'd,
Serv'd with my eye, my tongue, my sword;
Nay, let me not from truth depart!
Enshrin'd and worship'd it at heart.
Oft, when her mother fix'd my gaze,
Enwrapt, on bright perfection's blaze,
Hopes the imperious spell beguil'd,
Transcendant thus to see my child:
But now, for charms of form or face,
Save only purity and grace;
Save sweetness, which all rage disarms,
Would lure an infant to her arms
In instantaneous love; and make
A heart, like mine, with fondness ache;
I little care, so she be free
From such remorse as preys on me!'
"My dearest father!--Yet he grew
Profoundly anxious, as he knew
More of the dangers lurking round;
But I was on enchanted ground!
Delighted with my minstrel art,
I had a thousand lays by heart;
And while my yet unpractis'd tongue
Descanted on the strains I sung,
Still seeking treasure, like a bee,
I laugh'd and caroll'd, wild with glee!
"Delicious moments then I knew,
When the rough winds against me blew:
When, from the top of mountain steep,
I glanc'd my eye along the deep;
Or, proud the keener air to breathe,
Exulting saw the vale beneath.
When, launch'd in some lone boat, I sought
A little kingdom for my thought,
Within a river's winding cove,
Whose forests form a double grove,
And, from the water's silent flow,
Appear more beautiful below;
While their large leaves the lilies lave,
Or plash upon the shadow'd wave;
While birds, with darken'd pinions, fly
Across that still intenser sky;
Fish, with cold plunge, with startling leap,
Or arrow-flight across the deep;
And stilted insects, light-o-limb,
Would dimple o'er the even brim;
If, with my hand, in play, I chose
The cold, smooth current to oppose,
As fine a spell my senses bound
As vacant bosom ever found!
"And when I took my proudest post,
Near him on earth I valued most,
(No after-time could banish thence
A father's dear pre-eminence,)
And felt the kind, protecting charm,
The clasp of a paternal arm;
Felt, as instinctively it prest,
The sacred magnet of his breast,
'Gainst which I lean'd, and seem'd to grow,
With that deep fondness none can know,
Whom Providence does not assign
A parent excellent as mine!
That faith beyond, above mistrust,
That gratitude, so wholly just,
Each several, crowding claim forgot,
Whose source was light, without a blot;
No moment of unkindness shrouding,
No speck of anger overclouding:
An awful and a sweet controul,
A rainbow arching o'er the soul;
A soothing, tender thrill, which clung
Around the heart, while, all unstrung,
The thought was still, and mute the tongue!
"O! in that morn of life is given
To one so tun'd, a sumptuous dower!
Joys, which have flown direct from heaven,
And Graces, captive in her bower.
"Thoughts which can sail along the skies,
Or poise upon the buoyant air;
And make a peasant's soul arise
A monarch's mighty power to share.
"When all that we perceive below,
By land or sea, by night or day,
The past, the future, and the flow
Of present times, their tribute pay.
"Each bird, from cleft, from brake, or bower,
Bears her a blessing on its wings;
And every rich and precious flower
Its fragrance on her spirit flings.
"There's not a star that shines above
But pours on her a partial ray;
Endearments, like maternal love,
Her love to Nature's self repay.
"Faith, Hope, and Joy about her heart,
Close interlace the angel arm;
And with caresses heal the smart
Of every care, and every harm.
"Amid the wealth, amid the blaze
Of luxury and pomp around,
How poor is all the eye surveys
To what we know of fairy ground!"
She ceases, and her tears flow fast--
O! can this fit of softness last,
Which, so unlook'd for, comes to share
The sickly triumph of despair?
Upon the harp her head is thrown,
All round is like a vision flown;
And o'er a billowy surge her mind
Views lost delight left far behind.
THE LAY OF MARIE.
Some, fearing Marie's tale was o'er,
Lamented that they heard no more;
While Brehan, from her broken lay,
Portended what she yet might say.
As the untarrying minutes flew,
More anxious and alarm'd he grew.
At length he spake:--"We wait too long
The remnant of this wilder'd song!
And too tenaciously we press
Upon the languor of distress!
'Twere better, sure that hence convey'd,
And in some noiseless chamber laid,
Attentive care, and soothing rest,
Appeas'd the anguish of her breast."
Low was his voice, but Marie heard:
He hasten'd on the thing he fear'd.
She rais'd her head, and, with deep sighs,
Shook the large tear-drops from her eyes;
And, ere they dried upon her cheek,
Before she gather'd force to speak,
Convulsively her fingers play'd,
While his proud heart the prelude met,
Aiming at calmness, though dismay'd,
A loud, high measure, like a threat;
Soon sinking to that lower [Errata: slower] swell
Which love and sorrow know so well.
"How solemn is the sick man's room
To friends or kindred lingering near!
Poring on that uncertain gloom
In silent heaviness and fear!
"How sad, his feeble hand in thine,
The start of every pulse to share!
With painful haste each wish divine,
Yet fed the hopelessness of care!
"To turn aside the full-fraught eye,
Lest those faint orbs perceive the tear!
To bear the weight of every sigh,
Lest it should reach that wakeful ear!
"In the dread stillness of the night,
To lose the faint, faint sound of breath!
To listen in restrain'd affright,
To deprecate each thought of death!
"And, when a movement chas'd that fear,
And gave thy heart-blood leave to flow,
In thrilling awe the prayer to hear
Through the clos'd curtain murmur'd low!
"The prayer of him whose holy tongue
Had never yet exceeded truth!
Upon whose guardian care had hung
The whole dependence of thy youth!
"Who, noble, dauntless, frank and mild,
Was, for his very goodness, fear'd;
Belov'd with fondness like a child,
And like a blessed saint rever'd!
"I have known friends--but who can feel
The kindness such a father knew?
I serv'd him still with tender zeal,
But knew not then how much was due!
"And did not Providence ordain
That we should soon be laid as low,
No heart could such a stroke sustain,--
No reason could survive the blow!
"After that fatal trial came,
The world no longer was the same.
I still had pleasures:--who could live
Without the healing aid they give?
But, as a plant surcharg'd with rain,
When radiant sunshine comes again,
Just wakes from a benumbing trance,
I caught a feverish, fitful glance.
The dove, that for a weary time
Had mourn'd the rigour of the clime,
And, with its head beneath its wing,
Awaited a more genial spring,
Went forth again to search around,
And some few leaves of olive found,
But not a bower which could impart
Its interchange of light and shade;
Not that soft down, to warm the heart,
Of which her former nest was made.
Smooth were the waves, the ether clear,
Yet all was desert, cold, and drear!
"Affection, o'er thy clouded sky
In flocks the birds of omen fly;
And oft the wandering harpy, Care,
Must thy delicious viands share:
But all the soul's interior light,
All that is soothing, sweet, and bright,
All fragrance, softness, colour, glow,
To thee, as to the sun, we owe!
"Years past away! swift, varied years!
I learnt the luxury of tears;
And all the orphan's wretched lot,
'Midst those she pleas'd and serv'd, forgot.
"By turns applauded and despis'd,
Till one appear'd who duly priz'd;
Bound round my heart a welcome chain,
And earthward lur'd its hopes again;
When, careless of all worldly weal,
By Fancy only taught to feel,
My raptur'd spirit soar'd on high,
With momentary power to fly;
Or sang its deep, indignant moan,
With swells of anguish, when alone.
"Yet lovely dreams could I evoke
Of future happiness and fame--
I did not bow to kiss the yoke,
But welcom'd every joy that came.
"Often would self-complacence spread
Harmonious halos round my head;
And all my being own'd awhile
The warm diffusion of her smile.
"One morn they call'd me forth to sing
Fore our then liege, the English king.
Thy guest, my Lord de Semonville,
His gracious presence was the seal
Of favour to a servant true,
To boasted faith and fealty due!
"It never suits a royal ear
Prowess of foreign lands to hear;
And, leaving tales of Charlemagne
For British Arthur's earlier reign,
I, preluding with praise, began
The feats of that diviner man;
Let loose my soul in fairy land,
Gave wilder licence to my hand;
And, learn'd in chivalrous renown,
By song and story handed down,
Painted my knights from those around,
But placed them on poetic ground.
The ample brow, too smooth for guile;
The careless, fearless, open smile;
The shaded and yet arching eye,
At once reflective, kind, and shy;
The undesigning, dauntless look,--
Became to me a living book.
I read the character conceal'd,
Flash'd on by chance, or never known
Even to bosoms like its own;
Shrinking before a step intrude;
Touch, look, and whisper, all too rude;
Unsunn'd and fairest when reveal'd!
The first in every noble deed,
Most prompt to venture and to bleed!
Such hearts, so veil'd with angel wings,
Such cherish'd, tender, sacred things,
I since discover'd many a time,
O Britain! in thy temper'd clime;
In dew, in shade, in silence nurs'd,
For truth and sentiment athirst.
"As seas, with rough, surrounding wave,
Islands of verdant freshness save
From rash intruder's waste and spoil;--
As mountains rear their heads on high,
Present snow summits to the sky,
And weary patient feet with toil,
To screen some sweet, secluded vale,
And warm the air its flowers inhale;--
Reserve warns off approaching eyes
From where her choicer Eden lies.
"Such are the English knights, I cried,
Who all their better feelings hide;
Who muffle up their hearts with care,
To hide the virtues nestling there,
Who neither praise nor blame can bear.
"My hearers, though completely steel'd
For all the terrors of the field;
Mail'd for the arrow and the lance,
Bore not unharm'd my smiling glance;
At other times collected, brave,
Recoiled when I that picture gave;
As if their inmost heart, laid bare,
Shrank from the bleak, ungenial air.
"Proud of such prescience, on I went;--
The youthful monarch was content.
'Edgar de Langton, take this ring--
No! hither the young Minstrel bring:
Ourself can better still dispense
The honour and the recompence.'
I came, and, trembling, bent my knee.
He wonder'd that my looks were meek,
That blushes burnt upon my cheek!
'We would our little songstress see!
Remove those tresses! raise thy head!
Say, where is former courage fled,
'That all must now thy face infold?
At distance they were backward roll'd.
Whence, then, this most unfounded fear?
Are we so strange, so hateful here?'
"I strove in vain to lift my eyes,
And made some indistinct replies;
When one, more courteous and more kind,
Stepp'd forth to save my fainting mind.
'My liege, have pity! for, in truth,
It is too hard upon her youth.
Though so alert and fleet in song,
The strain was high, the race was long;
And she before has never seen
A monarch, save the fairy queen:
But does the lure of thought obey
As falcons their appointed way;
Train'd to one end, and wild as those
If aught they know not interpose.
Vain then is strength, and skill is vain,
Either to lead them or restrain.
The eye-lid closes, and the heart,
Low-sinking, plays a traitor's part;
While wings, of late so firmly spread,
Hang flagg'd and powerless as the dead!
With courts familiar from our birth,
Is it fit subject for our mirth,
That thus awakening from her theme,
Where she through air and sea pursues,
And all things governs, all subdues,
(Like fetter'd captive in a dream,)
Blindly to tread on unknown land,
Without a guide or helping hand,
No previous usage to befriend,
(As well we might an infant lend
Our eyes' experience, ear, or touch!)
Can we in reason wonder much,
Her steps are tottering and unsure
Where we have learnt to walk secure?
Is it not true, what I have told?'
Her paus'd, my features to behold--
Earl William paus'd: across his mien
A strong and sudden change was seen,
The courtier bend, protecting tone.
And smile of sympathy, were gone.
Abrupt his native accents broke,
And his lips trembled as he spoke.
"'How thus can Memory, in its flight,
On wings of gossamer alight,
Nor showing aim, nor leaving trace,
From a poor damsel's living face
To features of a brave, dead knight!
In eyes so young, and so benign,
What is it speaks of Palestine?
Of toils in early life I prov'd,
And of a comrade dearly lov'd!
'Tis true, he, like this maid, was young,
And gifted with a tuneful tongue!
His looks [Errata: locks], like her's, were bright and fair,
But light and laughing was his eye;
The prophecy of future care
In those thin, helmet lids we spy,
Veiling mild orbs, of changeful hue,
Where auburn half subsides in blue!
Lord Fauconberg, canst thou divine
What is the curve, or what the line,
That makes this girl, like lightning, send
Looks of our long lamented friend?
If Richard liv'd, that sorcery spell
Quickly his lion-heart would quell:
He never could her glance descry,
And any wish'd-for boon deny!
She's weeping too!--most strangely wrought
By workings of another's thought!
She knows no English; yet I speak
That language, and her paling cheek
With watery floods is overcast.--
Fair maid, we talk of times long past;
A friend we often mourn in vain--
A knight in distant battle slain,
Whose bones had moulder'd in the earth
Full many a year before thy birth.
He fed our ears with songs of old,
And one was of a heart of gold,--
A native ditty I would fain,
But never yet could hear again.
It spoke of friendship like his own,
Once only in existence known.
My prime of life the blessing crost,
And with it life's first charm I lost!'
"'Chieftain, allow me, on my knee
To sing that English song to thee!
For then I never dare to stand,
Nor take the harp within my hand;
Sacred it also is to me!
And it should please thy fancy well,
Since dear the lips from whence it fell;
'And dear the language which conveys
The only theme of real praise!
O! if in very truth thou art
A mourner for that loyal heart,
A lowly minstrel maid forgive,
Who strives to make remembrance live!'
"'Betimes my heritage was sold
To buy this heart of solid gold.
Ye all, perchance, have jewels fine,
But what are such compar'd to mine?
O! they are formal, poor, and cold,
And out of fashion when they're old;--
But this is of unchanging ore,
And every day is valued more.
Not all the eye could e'er behold
Should purchase back this heart of gold.
"'How oft its temper has been tried!
Its noble nature purified!
And still it from the furnace came
Uninjur'd by the subtil flame.
Like truth itself, pale, simple, pure,
Yielding, yet fitted to endure,--
No rust, no tarnish can arise,
To hide its lustre from our eyes;
And this world's choicest gift I hold,
While I can keep my heart of gold.
"'Whatever treasure may be lost,
Whatever project may be crost,
Whatever other boon denied,
The amulet I long have tried
Has still a sweet, attractive power
To draw the confidential hour,--
That hour for weakness and for grief,
For true condolement, full belief!
O! I can never feel bereft,
While one possession shall be left;
That which I now in triumph hold,
This dear, this cherish'd heart of gold!
"'Come, all who wish to be enroll'd!
Our order is, the heart of gold.
The vain, the artful, and the nice,
Can never pay the weighty price;
For they must selfishness abjure,
Have tongue, and hand, and conscience pure;
Suffering for friendship, never grieve,
But, with a god-like strength, believe
In the oft absent power of truth,
As they have seen it in their youth.
Ye who have grown in such a mould
Are worthy of the heart of gold!'
"Ceasing, and in the act to rise,
A voice exclaim'd, 'Receive the prize!
Earl William, let me pardon crave,
Thus yielding what thy kindness gave!
But with such strange, intense delight,
This maiden fills my ear, my sight;
I long so ardently to twine
In her renown one gift of mine;
That having but a die to cast,
Lest our first meeting prove our last,
I would ensure myself the lot
Not to be utterly forgot!
And this, my offering, here consign,
Worthy, because it once was thine!
Then, maiden, from a warrior deign
To take this golden heart and chain!
Thy order's emblem! and afar
Its light shall lead me, like a star!
If thou, its mistress, didst requite
With guerdon meet each chosen knight;
If from that gifted hand there came
A badge of such excelling fame,
The broider'd scarf might wave in vain,
Unenvied might a rival gain,
Amid assembled peers, the crown
Of tournay triumph and renown;
For me its charm would all be gone,
E'en though a princess set it on!'
"I bow'd my thanks, and quick withdrew,
Glad to escape from public view;
Laden with presents, and with praise,
Beyond the meed of former days.
But that on which I gaz'd with pride,
Which I could scarcely lay aside,
Even to close my eyes for rest;
(I wear it now upon my breast,
And there till death it shall remain!)
Was this same golden heart and chain!
The peacock crown, with all its eyes,
Its emerald, jacinth, sapphire dyes,
When first, irradiate o'er my brow,
Wav'd its rich plumes in gleaming flow,
Did not so deep a thrill impart,
So soften, so dilate my heart!
No praise had touch'd me, as it fell,
Like his, because I saw full well,
Honour and sweetness orb'd did lie
Within the circlet of his eye!
Integrity which could not swerve,
A judgment of that purer nerve,
Fearing itself, and only bound
By truth and love to all around:
Which dared not feign, and scorn'd to vaunt,
Nor interest led, nor power could daunt;
Acting as if it mov'd alone
In sight of the Almighty's throne.
"His graceful form my Fancy caught,--
It was the same she always brought,
When legends mentioned knights of old,
The courteous, eloquent, and bold.
The same dark locks his forehead grac'd,
A crown by partial Nature plac'd,
With the large hollows, and the swells,
And short, close, tendril twine of shells.
Though grave in aspect, when he smil'd,
'Twas gay and artless as a child,
With him expression seem'd a law,--
You only Nature's dictates saw;
But they in full perfection wrought
Of generous feeling, varied thought,--
All that can elevate or move,
That we admire, esteem, and love!
"Thus, when it pleas'd the youthful king,
Who wish'd yet more to hear me sing,
That I should follow o'er the main,
In good Earl William's sober train,
As slow we linger'd on the seas,
I inly blest each wayward breeze;
For still the graceful knight was near,
Prompt to discourse, relate, and hear:
The spirit had that exercise,
The fine perceptions' play,
That perish with the worldly wise,
The torpid, and the gay.
"In the strings of their lyres as the poets of old
Fresh blossoms were used to entwine;
As the shrines of their gods were enamell'd with gold,
And sparkling with gems from the mine:
"So, grac'd with delights that arise in the mind,
As through flowers, the language should flow!
While the eye, where we fancy all soul is enshrin'd,
With divine emanations should glow!
"The voice, or the look, gifted thus, has a charm
Remembrance springs onward to greet;
And thought, like an angel, flies, living and warm,
When announcing the moment to meet!
"And it was thus when Eustace spoke,
Thus brightly his ideas glanc'd,
Met mine, and smil'd as they advanc'd,
For all his fervour I partook,--
Pour'd out my spirit in each theme,
And follow'd every waking dream!
Now in Fancy's airy play,
Near at hand, and far away,
All that was sportive, wild, and gay!
Now led by Pity to deplore
Hearts that can ache and bleed no more,
We roam'd long tales of sadness o'er!
Now, prompted by achievements higher,
We caught the hero's, martyr's fire!
Who, listening to an angel choir,
Rapt and devoted, following still
Where duty or religion led,
The mind prepar'd, subdued the will,
Bent their grand purpose to fulfil:
Conquer'd, endur'd, or meekly bled!
Nor wonder'd we, for we were given,
Like them, to zeal, to truth, and heaven.
"Receding silently from view,
Freedom, unthought of, then withdrew;
We neither mark'd her as she flew,
Nor ever had her absence known
From care or question of our own.
At court, emotion or surprize
Reveal'd the truth to other eyes.
The pride of England's nobles staid
Too often near the minstrel maid;
And many in derision smil'd,
To see him pay a peasant's child,
For such they deem'd me, deep respect,
While birth and grandeur met neglect.
Soon, sway'd by duty more than wealth,
He listen'd and he look'd by stealth;
And I grew careless in my lays;
Languish'd for that exclusive praise.
Yet, conscious of an equal claim,
Above each base or sordid aim,
From wounded feeling and from pride,
My pain I coldly strove to hide:
And when, encounter'd by surprize,
Rapture rose flashing in his eyes,
My formal speech and careless air
Would call a sudden anger there.
"Reserv'd and sullen we became,
Tenacious both, and both to blame.
Yet often an upbraiding look
Controul'd the sentence as I spoke;
Prompt and direct its flight arose,
But sunk or waver'd at the close.
Often, beneath his softening eye,
I felt my resolution die;
And, half-relentingly, forgot
His splendid and my humble lot.
"Sometimes a sudden fancy came,
That he who bore my father's name,
Broken in spirit and in health,
Was weary of ill-gotten wealth.
I to the cloister saw him led,
Saw the wide cowl upon his head;
Heard him, in his last dying hour,
Warn others from the thirst of power;
Adjure the orphan of his friend
Pardon and needful aid to lend,
If heaven vouchsaf'd her yet to live;
For, could she pity and forgive,
'Twould wing his penitential prayer
With better hope of mercy there!
Then did he rank and lands resign,
With all that was in justice mine;
And I, pretending to be vain,
Return'd the world its poor disdain,
But smil'd on Eustace once again!
"Thus vision after vision flew,
Leaving again before my view
That [Errata: The] hollow scene, the scornful crowd,
To which that heart had never bow'd,
Whose tenderness I hourly fed;
While thus I to its nursling said;--
"Be silent, _Love!_ nor from my lip
In faint or hurried language speak!
Be motionless within my eye,
And never wander to my cheek!
Retir'd and passive thou must be,
Or truly I shall banish thee!
"Thou art a restless, wayward sprite,
So young, so tender, and so fair,
I dare not trust thee from my sight,
Nor let thee breathe the common air!
Home to my heart, then, quickly flee,
It is the only place for thee!
"And hush thee, sweet one! in that cell,
For I will whisper in thine ear
Those tales that Hope and Fancy tell,
Which it may please thee best to hear!
I will not, may not, set thee free--
I die if aught discover thee!"
Where are the plaudits, warm and long,
That erst have follow'd Marie's song?
The full assenting, sudden, loud,
The buz of pleasure in the crowd!
The harp was still, but silence reign'd,
Listening as if she still complain'd:
For Pity threw her gentle yoke
Across Impatience, ere he spoke;
And Thought, in pondering o'er her strains,
Had that cold state he oft maintains.
But soon the silence seem'd to say,
"Fair mourner, reassume thy lay!"
And in the chords her fingers stray'd;
For aching Memory found relief
In mounting to the source of grief;
A tender symphony she play'd,
Then bow'd, and thus, unask'd, obey'd.
The Lay of Marie
"Careless alike who went or came,
I seldom ask'd the stranger's name,
When such a being came in view
As eagerly the question drew.
'The Lady Osvalde,' some one cried,
'Sir Eustace' late appointed bride,
His richest ward the king's behest
Gives to the bravest and the best.'
"Enchantments, wrought by pride and fear,
Made me, though mute, unmov'd appear.
My eye was quiet, and the while
My lip maintain'd a steady smile.
It cost me much, alas! to feign;
But while I struggled with the pain,
With beauty stole upon my sight
An inward feeling of delight.
"Long did the silken lashes lie
Upon a dark and brilliant eye;
Bright the wild rose's finest hue
O'er a pure cheek of ivory flew.
Her smile, all plaintive and resign'd,
Bespake a gentle, suffering mind;
And e'en her voice, so clear and faint,
Had something in it of complaint.
Her delicate and slender form,
Like a vale-lily from the storm,
Seem'd pensively to shrink away,
More timid in a crowd so gay.
Large jewels glitter'd in her hair;
And, on her neck, as marble fair,
Lay precious pearls, in countless strings;
Her small, white hands, emboss'd with rings,
Announc'd high rank and amplest wealth,
But neither freedom, power, nor health.
"Near her Sir Eustace took his stand,
With manner sad, yet soft and bland;
Spoke oft, but her replies were tame;
And soon less frequent both became.
Their converse seem'd by labour wrought,
Without one sweet, free-springing thought;
Without those flashes of delight
Which make it tender, deep, or bright!
It was not thus upon the sea
He us'd to look and talk with me!
Not thus, when, lost to all around,
His haughty kinsmen saw and frown'd!
Then all unfelt the world's controul,--
Its rein lay lightly o'er his soul;
Far were its prides and cautions hurl'd,
And Thought's wide banner flew unfurl'd.
"Yet we should do fair Osvalde wrong
To class her with the circling throng:
Her mind was like a gentle sprite,
Whose wings, though aptly form'd for flight,
From cowardice are seldom spread;
Who folds the arms, and droops the head;
Stealing, in pilgrim guise along,
With needless staff, and vestment grey,
It scarcely trills a vesper song
Monotonous at close of day.
Cross but its path, demanding aught,
E'en what its pensive mistress sought,
Though forward welcoming she hied,
And its quick footstep glanc'd aside.
"Restraint, alarms, and solitude,
Her early courage had subdu'd;
Fetter'd her movements, looks, and tongue,
While on her heart more weighty hung
Each griev'd resentment, doubt, and pain,
Each dread of anger or disdain.
A deeper sorrow also lent
The sharpen'd pang of discontent;
For unconceal'd attachment prov'd
Destructive to the man she lov'd.
"Owning, like her, an orphan's doom,
He had not that prescriptive home
Which wealth and royal sanction buys;
No powerful friends, nor tender ties;--
No claims, save former promise given,
Whose only witness was in heaven;
And promise takes a slender hold,
Where all is selfish, dull, and cold.
"Slowly that bloomless favour grew,
Before his stern protectors knew
The secret which arous'd disdain.
Declaring that he did but feign,
They, in unpitying vengeance, hurl'd
A sister's offspring on the world.
Thus outrag'd, pride's corroding smart,
The fever of a throbbing heart,
Impell'd him first to wander round,
And soon to leap that barrier ground,
And seek the arch'd, embowering way,
In which her steps were wont to stray.
"No sleep his heavy eyes could close,
Nor restless memory find repose,
Nor hope a plan on which to rest,
In the wild tumult of a breast
With warring passions deeply fraught.
To see her was his only thought;
Feel once again the tones that sprung
So oft to that endearing tongue,
Flow on his heart; desponding, faint,
But too indignant for complaint;
Say how completely he resign'd
All former influence o'er her mind,
Where it was better to destroy
Each vestige of their days of joy.
To breathe her name he would not dare,
Except in solitude and prayer!
'Beyond belief I love, adore,
But never will behold thee more!'
Thus thinking o'er each purpose high,
Tears gather'd blinding in his eye;
And bitter, uncontroul'd regret
Exclaim'd, 'Why have we ever met?'
"These conflicts and these hopes were fled;
Alas! poor youth! his blood, was shed,
Before the feet of Osvalde trod
Again on the empurpled sod.
No voice had dar'd to tell the tale;
But she had many a boding thrill,
For dumb observance watch'd her still;
For laughter ceas'd whene'er she came,
And none pronounc'd her lover's name!
When wilfully she sought this spot,
Shudderings prophetic mark'd his lot;
She look'd! her maiden's cheek was pale!
And from the hour did ne'er depart
That deadly tremor from her heart.
Pleasure and blandishment were vain;
Deaf to persuasion's dulcet strain,
It never reach'd her mind again.
"Arise, lovely mourner! thy sorrows give o'er,
Nor droop so forlornly that beautiful head!
Thy sighs art unheard by the youth they deplore,
And those warm-flowing tears all unfelt by the dead.
"Then quit this despondence, sweet Osvalde! be gay!
See open before thee the gates of delight!
Where the Hours are now lingering on tiptoe, away!
They view thee with smiles, and are loth to take flight.
"See the damsels around thee, how joyous they are!
How their eyes sparkle pleasure whenever they meet!
What sweet flowers are entwin'd in their long, floating hair!
How airy their movements, how nimble their feet!
"O! bear her from hence! when she sees them rejoice,
Still keener the pain of her agony burns;
And when Joy carols by, with a rapturous voice,
To hopeless Remembrance more poignantly turns.
"Thus often has her bosom bled;
Thus have I seen her fainting led
From feasts intended to dispel
The woeful thoughts she nurs'd so well.
And must she, by the king's command,
To Eustace plight that fever'd hand?
Proud, loyal as he is, can he,
A victim to the same decree,
Receive it, while regretting me?
For that poor, withering heart, resign
The warm, devoted faith of mine!
"Have I, too, an allotted task?
What from the Minstrel do they ask?
A nimble finger o'er the chords,
A tongue replete with gracious words!
Alas! the tribute they require,
Truth, sudden impulse, should inspire;
And from the senseless, subject lyre,
Such fine and mellow music flow,
The skill that forms it should not know
Whence the delicious tones proceed;
But, lost in rapture's grateful glow,
Doubt its own power, and cry, 'Indeed,
Some passing angel sweeps the strings,
Wafting from his balsamic wings
The sweetest breath of Eden bowers,
Tones nurs'd and hovering there in flowers,
Have left their haunts to wander free,
Linger, alight, and dwell on thee!'
"In Osvalde's porch, where, full in bloom,
The jasmine spread its rich perfume;
And, in thick clustering masses, strove
To hide the arch of stone above;
While many a long and drooping spray
Wav'd up, and lash'd the air in play;
Was I ordain'd my harp to place,
The pair with bridal strains to grace.
"The royal will,--and what beside?
O! what I since have lost,--my pride,
Forbade the wonted song to fail:
I met him with a cheerful hail.
I taught my looks, my lips, to feign
I bade my hand its task sustain;
And when he came to seek the bride,
Her rival thus, unfaltering, cried:--
"'Approach! approach, thou gallant knight!
England's first champion in the fight,
Of grace and courtesy the flower,
Approach the high-born Osvalde's bower!
And forth let manly valour bring
Youth's timid meekness, beauty's spring!
"'Thou darling of a vassal host,
Thy parents' stay, thy kinsman's boast;
Thou favourite in a monarch's eyes,
Whose gracious hand awards the prize;
Thee does the brightest lot betide,
The best domain, the fairest bride!'
"Mine sunk beneath the mournful look
Which glanc'd disdainful as I spoke;
And, when his step past hurrying by,
And when I heard his struggling sigh,
A moment on my quailing tongue
The speech constrain'd of welcome hung;
But in the harp's continuous sound
My wandering thoughts I quickly found.
"'Haste on! and here thy duteous train
In rapt expectance shall remain;
Till, with thee, brilliant as a gem
Set in a kingdom's diadem,
Thy lovely mistress shall appear!
O! hasten! we await thee here!'
"Again did that upbraiding eye
Check my false strain in passing by;
And its concentred meaning fell
Into my soul:--It was not well
To triumph thus, though but in show;
To chant the lay that joyance spoke,
To wear the gay and careless look.--
The ardent and the tender know
What pain those self-reproaches brought,
When conscience took the reins of thought
Into her hand, avenging more
All that she seem'd to prompt before.
O tyrant! from whose stern command
No act of mine was ever free,
How oft wouldst thou a censor stand
For what I did to pleasure thee!
The well-propp'd courage of my look,
The sportive language, airy tone,
To wounded love and pride bespoke
A selfish hardness not my own!
And only lulling secret pain,
I seem'd to fling around disdain.
"To him, with warm affections crost,
Who, owning happiness was lost,
Had said, 'Dear maiden, were I free,
They would not let me think of thee;
The only one who on my sight
Breaks lovely as the morning light;
Whom my heart bounding springs to greet,
Seeks not, but always hopes to meet;
With eager joy unlocks its store,
Yet ever pines to tell thee more!'
To him, should feign'd indifference bring
A killing scorn, a taunting sting?
To Osvalde, drooping and forlorn,
A flower fast fading on the stem,
All exultation seem'd like scorn,
For what was hope and joy to them?
As with awakening judgment came
These feelings of remorse and shame,
With the throng'd crowd, the bustling scene,
Did deep abstractions intervene,
O'er yielding effort holding sway,
As, humbled, I pursued my way.
"The festive flowers, the incens'd air,
The altar taper's reddening glare;
The pausing, slow-advancing pair,
Her fainter, his most watchful air;
The vaulted pile, the solemn rite,
Impress'd, then languish'd on my sight;
And all my being was resign'd
To that strong ordeal, where the mind,
Summon'd before a heavenly throne,
Howe'er surrounded, feels alone.
When, bow'd in dust all earthly pride,
All earthly power and threats defied,
Mortal opinion stands as nought
In the clear'd atmosphere of thought;
And selfish care, and worldly thrall,
And mean repining, vanish all.
When prayers are pour'd to God above,
His eyes send forth their beams of love;
Darkness forsakes our mental sky,
And, demon-like, our passions fly.
The holy presence, by its stay
Drives failings, fears, and woes away;
Refines, exalts, our nature draws
To share its own eternal laws
Of pure benevolence and rest,
The future portion of the blest--
Their constant portion! Soon this flow
Of life I lost--recall'd below:
From prayers for them recall'd. Around,
A sudden rush, of fearful sound,
Smote on my ear; of voices crying,
'The bride, the Lady Osvalde dying!
Give place! make room!' the hurrying press
Eustace alarm'd; and, in distress,
Calling for air, and through the crowd
Which an impeded way allow'd,
Forcing slow progress; bearing on
Her pallid form; when, wholly gone
You might have deem'd her mortal breath,
Cold, languid, motionless as death,
I saw before my eyes advance,
And 'woke, astounded, from my trance.
"The air reviv'd her--but again
She left not, for the social train,
The stillness of her chamber;--ne'er
Its threshold pass'd, but on her bier:
Spoke but to one who seem'd to stand
Anear, and took his viewless hand,
To promise, let whate'er betide,
She would not be another's bride.
Then, pleading as for past offence,
Cried out aloud, 'They bore me hence!
My feet, my lips, refus'd to move,
To violate the vows of love!
My sense recoil'd, my vision flew,
Almost before I met thy view!
Almost before I heard thee cry
Perfidious Osvalde! look and die!
"'Oppose them? No! I did not dare!
I am not as a many are,
Ruling themselves: my spirits fly,
My force expires before reply.
Instinctively a coward, free
In speech, in act, I could not be
With any in my life, but thee!
Nor strength, nor power do I possess,
Except, indeed, to bear distress!
Except to pour the aching sigh,
Which only can my pain relieve;
Inhuman ye who ask me why,
And pause, to wonder that I grieve:
Mine are the wounds which never close,
Mine is a deep, untiring care;
A horror flying from repose,
A weight the sickening soul must bear.
The tears that from these eyelids flow,
The sad confusion of my brain,
All waking phantoms of its woe,
Your anger, and the world's disdain,--
Seek not to sooth me!--they are sent
This feeble frame and heart to try!
It is establish'd, be content!
They never leave me till I die!'
"So little here is understood,
So little known the great and good,
The deep regret that Eustace prov'd,
Brought home conviction that he lov'd
To many: others thought, her dower,
The loss of lordships, wealth, and power,
Full cause for sorrow; and the king
Hop'd he might consolation bring,
And bind a wavering servant o'er,
(Not found too loyal heretofore,)
By linking his sole daughter's fate
In wedlock with an English mate--
His favourite too! whose own domain
Spread over valley, hill, and plain;
Whose far-trac'd lineage did evince
A birth-right worthy of a prince;
Whose feats of arms, whose honour, worth,
Were even nobler than his birth;
Who, in his own bright self, did bring
A presence worthy of a king--
A form to catch and charm the eye,
Make proud men gracious, ladies sigh;
The boldest, wisest, and the best,
Greater than each presuming guest;--
I speak from judgment, not from love,--
In all endowments far above
Who tastes this day of festal cheer,
And whom his death assembles here!
"That he is known those look avow,
The mantling cheek, the knitting brow:
I could not hope it did he live,
But now, O! now, ye must forgive!
Most recreant they who dare offend
One who has lost her only friend!
De Stafford's widow here appears--
For him, my Eustace, flow these tears!
Ye may not blame me! ye have wives,
Who yet may sorrow for your lives!
Who, in the outset of their grief,
Upon a father's neck may spring;
Or find in innocence relief,
And to a cherish'd infant cling;
Or thus, like me, forlornly shed
Their lonely wailing o'er the dead!
"Can eyes that briny torrents steep,
Others in strong subjection keep?
Yes! here are some that mine obey,
And, self-indignant at the sway
I hold upon them, turn away!
Some, too, who have no cause for shame,
Whom even the injur'd cannot blame,
Now here, now there, above, below,
Their looks of wild avoidance throw!
Nay, gentle cousin, blush not so!
And do not, pray thee, rise to go!
I am bewilder'd with my woe;
But hear me fairly to the end,
I will not pain thee, nor offend.
O no! I would thy favour win;
For, when I die, as next of kin,
So 'reft am I of human ties,
It is thy place to close my eyes!
"With state and wealth to thee I part,
But could not with De Stafford's heart!
Nor could I mute and prudent be
When all at once I found 'twas thee,
Doom'd ever, in thy own despite,
To take my rank, usurp my right!
I told, alas! my father's name,
The noble stock from which I came:--
'Marie de Brehan, sounds as well,
Perhaps,' I cried, 'as Isabel!
And were the elder branch restor'd,
(My grandsire was the rightful lord,)
I, in my injur'd father's place,
Those large domains, that name would grace.'
"I never saw a joy so bright,
So full, so fledg'd with sparkling light,
As that which on the instant flew
To his quick eye, when Eustace knew
He had not yielded to a yoke
Which prudence blam'd, or reason broke.
'O! trebly blest this hour,' he cried;
'I take not now another bride!
I bow'd to duty and to pride;
But, here I pledge my solemn vow,
To wealth alone I will not bow!
The only offspring of a race
No misalliance did disgrace;
Nurtur'd, school'd, fashion'd by their laws,
Not wishing an exceptive clause,
Till thee, my only choice, I met;
And then, with useless, deep regret,
I found in birth, and that alone,
Thou wert unworthy of a throne!
My ancestors appear'd too nice;
Their grandeur bore too high a price,
If, with it, on the altar laid,
Freedom and happiness were paid!
Yet, could I give my father pain,
Or treat those lessons with disdain,
I heard a child upon his knee;
And, at the present, knew to be
Entwin'd with every vital part?
To scorn them were to break his heart!
My mother too, though meek and kind,
Possessing such a stately mind,
That once perceiving what was fit,
If 'twere to die, must still submit;
Knowing no question in the right,
Would not have borne me in her sight;
Though quick her sands of life would run,
Deserting, angry with her son!
Yet noble both, by honour bound,
To take no other vantage ground,
They will not use a meaner plea,
Nor sordid reasons urge to me!
Good and high-minded, they will yield:
I shall be victor in that field;
And for my sovereign, we shall find
Some inlet to his eager mind;
At once not rashly all disclose,
His plans or bidding to oppose,--
That his quick temper would not brook;
But I will watch a gracious look,
And foster an auspicious hour,
To try both love and reason's power.
Zealous I cannot fail to be,
Thou canst not guess to what degree,
Dear Marie, when I plead for thee!'
"That the result was plain, I knew,
For I had often heard him sue,
And never known a boon denied.
In secret I became his bride:
But heaven the union disapprov'd--
The father he so truly lov'd,
Before this first offence was told,
Though neither sick, infirm, or old,
Without a moment's warning, died!
"This seal'd his silence for awhile;
For, till he saw his mother smile,
Till time the cloud of woe should chace
From her pale, venerable face,
He felt the tale he dar'd not break,--
He could not on the subject speak!
And oh! the gentle mourn so long,
The faint lament outlasts the strong!
"Her waning health was fair pretence
To keep his voyage in suspence;
But still the king, averse or mute,
Heard coldly his dejected suit,
To give the lingering treaty o'er;
And once exclaim'd, 'Persuade no more!
This measure 'tis resolv'd to try!
We must that veering subject buy;
Else, let the enemy advance,
De Brehan surely sides with France!'"
The harp again was silent; still
No fiat of the general will
Bade her to cease or to proceed:
Oft an inquiring eye, indeed,
The strangers rais'd; but instant check'd,
Lest the new vassals should suspect
They thought the monarch's reasons just,
And faith so varying brought mistrust.
De Brehan, with a bitter smile,
Eyes closing, lips compress'd the while,
Although Remorse, with keenest dart,
And disappointment wrung his heart;
Although he long'd to thunder--"Cease!"
Restrain'd his fury, kept his peace.
The Lay of Marie.
Marie, as if upon the brink
Of some abyss, had paus'd to think;
And seem'd from her sad task to shrink.
One hand was on her forehead prest,
The other clasping tight her vest;
As if she fear'd the throbbing heart
Would let its very life depart.
Yet, in that sad, bewilder'd mien,
Traces of glory still were seen;
Traces of greatness from above,
Of noble scorn, devoted love;
Of pity such as angels feel,
Of clinging faith and martyr'd zeal!
Can one, who by experience knows
So much of trial and of woes,
Late prone to kindle and to melt,
To feel whatever could be felt,
To suffer, and without complaint,
All anxious hopes, depressing fears;
Her heart with untold sorrows faint,
Eyes heavy with unshedden tears,
Through every keen affliction past,
Can that high spirit sink at last?
Or shall it yet victorious rise,
Beneath the most inclement skies,
See all it loves to ruin hurl'd,
Smile on the gay, the careless world;
And, finely temper'd, turn aside
Its sorrow and despair to hide?
Or burst at once the useless chain,
To seem and be itself again?
Will Memory evermore controul,
And Thought still lord it o'er her soul?
Queen of all wonders and delight,
Say, canst not thou possess her quite,
Sweet Poesy! and balm distil
For every ache, and every ill?
Like as in infancy, thy art
Could lull to rest that throbbing heart!
Could say to each emotion, Cease!
And render it a realm of peace,
Where beckoning Hope led on Surprize
To see thy magic forms arise!
Oh! come! all awful and sublime,
Arm'd close in stately, nervous rhyme,
With wheeling chariot, towering crest
And Amazonian splendors drest!
Or a fair nymph, with airy grace,
And playful dimples in thy face,
Light let the spiral ringlets flow,
And chaplet wreath along thy brow--
Thou art her sovereign! Hear her now
Again renew her early vow!
The fondest votary in thy train,
If all past service be not vain,
Might surely be receiv'd again!
Behold those hands in anguish wrung
One instant!--and but that alone!
When, waving grief, again she sang,
Though in a low, imploring tone.
"Awake, my lyre! thy echoes bring!
Now, while yon phoenix spreads her wing!
From her ashes, when she dies,
Another brighter self shall rise!
'Tis Hope! the charmer! fickle, wild;
But I lov'd her from a child;
And, could we catch the distant strain,
Sure to be sweet, though false and vain,
Most dear and welcome would it be!--