An Arthurian Miscellany at sacred-texts.com
THE BRIDAL OF TRIERMAIN
SIR WALTER SCOTT
Come Lucy! while 'tis morning hour
The woodland brook we needs must pass;
So, ere the sun assume his power,
We shelter in our poplar bower,
Where dew lies long upon the flower,
Though vanish'd from the velvet grass.
Curbing the stream, this stony ridge
May serve us for a silvan bridge;
For here, compell'd to disunite,
Round petty isles the runnels glide,
And chafing off their puny spite,
The shallows murmurers waste their might,
Yielding to footstep free and light
A dry-shod pass from side to side.
Nay, why this hesitating pause?
And, Lucy, as thy step withdraws,
Why sidelong eye the streamlet's brim?
Titania's foot without a slip,
Like, thine, though timid, light, and slim,
From stone to stone might safely trip,
Nor risk the glow-worm clasp to dip
That binds her slipper's silken rim.
Or trust thy lover's strength; nor fear
That this same stalwart arm of mine,
Which could yon oak's prone trunk uprear,
Shall shrink beneath, the burden dear
Of form so slender, light, and fine;
So! now, the danger dared at last,
Look back, and smile at perils past!
And now we reach the favourite glade,
Paled in copsewood, cliff, and stone,
Where never harsher sounds invade,
To break affection's whispering tone,
Than the deep breeze that waves the shade,
Than the small brooklet's feeble moan.
Come! rest thee on thy wonted seat;
Moss'd is the stone, the turf is green,
A place where lovers best may meet
Who would not that their love be seen.
The boughs, that dim the summer sky,
Shall hide us from each lurking spy,
That fain would spread the invidious tale,
How Lucy of the lofty eye,
Noble in birth, in fortunes high,
She for whom lords and barons sigh,
Meets her poor Arthur in the dale.
How deep that blush! -- how deep that sigh!
And why does Lucy shun mine eye?
Is it because that crimson draws
Its colour from some secret cause,
Some hidden movement of the breast
She would not that her Arthur guess'd?
O! quicker far is lovers' ken
Than the dull glance of common men,
And, by strange sympathy, can spell
The thoughts the loved one will not tell!
And mine, in Lucy's blush, saw met
The hues of pleasure and regret;
Pride mingled in the sigh her voice,
And shared with Love the crimson glow;
Well pleased that thou art Arthur's choice,
Yet shamed thine own is placed so low:
Thou turn'st thy self-confessing cheek,
As if to meet the breeze's cooling:
Then, Lucy, hear thy tutor speak,
For Love, too, has his hours of schooling.
Too oft my anxious eye has spied
That secret grief thou fain wouldst hide,
The passing pang of humbled pride;
Too oft, when through the splendid hall,
The load-star of each heart and eye,
My fair one leads the glittering ball,
Will her stol'n glance on Arthur fall,
With such a blush and such a sigh!
Thou wouldst not yield, for wealth or rank,
The heart thy worth and beauty won,
Nor leave me on this mossy bank,
To meet a rival on a throne:
Why, then, should vain repinings rise,
That to thy lover fate denies
A nobler name, a wide domain,
A Baron's birth, a menial train,
Since Heaven assign'd him, for his part,
A lyre, a falchion, and a heart?
My sword -- its master must be dumb;
But, when a soldier names my name,
Approach, my Lucy! fearless come,
Nor dread to hear of Arthur's shame.
My heart! 'mid all yon courtly crew
Of lordly rank and lofty line,
Is there to love and honour true,
That boasts a pulse so warm as mine?
They praised thy diamonds' lustre rare --
Match'd with thine eyes, I thought it faded;
They praised the pearls that bound thy hair--
I saw only the locks they braided;
They talk'd of wealthy dower and land,
And titles of high birth the token --
I thought of Lucy's heart and hand,
Nor knew the sense of what was spoken.
And yet, if rank'd in Fortune's roll,
I might have learn'd their choice unwise,
Who rate the dower above the soul,
And Lucy's diamonds o'er her eyes.
My lyre -- it is an idle toy,
That borrows accents not its own,
Like warbler of Colombian sky,
That sings in a mimic tone.
Ne'er did it sound o'er sainted well,
Nor boasts it aught of Border spell;
It strings no feudal slogan pour,
Its heroes draw no broad claymore;
No shouting clans applauses raise,
Because it sung their father's praise;
On Scottish moor, or English down,
It ne'er was graced with fair renown;
Norwon -- best meed to minstrel true --
One favouring smile from fair BUCCLEUCH!
By one poor streamlet sounds its tone,
And heard by one dear maid alone.
But, if thou bid'st, these tones shall tell
Of errant knight, and damozelle;
Of a dread knot a Wizard tied,
In punishment of maiden's pride,
In notes of marvel and of fear,
That best may charm romantic ear.
For Lucy loves (like COLLINS, ill-starred name,
Whose lay's requital was that tardy fame,
Who bound no laurel round his living head,
Should hang it o'er his monument when dead)
For Lucy loves to tread enchanted strand,
And thread, like him, the maze of fairy land;
Of golden battlements to view the gleam,
And slumber soft by some Elysian stream;
Such lays she loves; and, such my Lucy's choice,
What other song can claim her Poet's voice?
Where is the maiden of mortal strain
That may match with the Baron of Triermain?
She must be lovely, and constant, and kind,
Holy and pure, and humble of mind,
Blithe of cheer, and gentle of mood,
Courteous, and generous, and noble of blood,
Lovely as the sun's first ray
When it breaks the clouds of an April day;
Constant and true as the widow'd dove,
Kind as a minstrel that sings of love;
Pure as the fountain in rocky cave,
Where never sunbeam kiss'd the wave;
Humble as a maiden that loves in vain,
Holy as a hermit's vesper strain;
Gentle as a breeze that but whispers and dies,
Yet blithe as the light leaves that dance in its sighs;
Courteous as monarch the morn he is crown'd,
Generous as spring-dews that bless the glad ground;
Noble her blood as the currents that met
In the veins of the noblest Plantangenet:
Such must her form be, her mood and her strain,
That shall match with Sir Roland of Triermain.
Sir Roland de Vaux he hath laid him to sleep,
His blood it was fever'd, his breathing was deep.
He had been pricking against the Scot,
The foray was long, and the skirmish hot;
His dinted helm and his buckler's plight
Bore token of a stubborn fight.
All in the castle must hold them still,
Harpers must lull him to his rest
With the slow soft tunes he loves the best,
Till sleep sink down upon his breast
Like the dew on a summer hill.
It was the dawn of an autumn day;
The sun was struggling with a frost-fog grey,
That like a silvery crape was spread
Round Skiddaw's dim and distant head,
And faintly gleam'd each painted pane
Of the lordly halls of Triermain,
When that Baron bold awoke.
Starting he woke, and loudly did call,
Rousing his menials in bower and hall,
While hastily he spoke.
'Hearken, my minstrels! which of ye all
Touch'd his harp with that dying fall,
So sweet, so soft, so faint,
It seem'd an angel's whisper'd call
To an expiring saint?
And harken, my merry men! what time or where
Did she pass, that maid with her heavenly brow,
With her look so sweet and her eyes so fair,
And her graceful step and her angel air,
And the eagle plume in her dark-brown hair,
That pass'd from my bower e'en now?'
Answer'd him Richard de Bretville -- he
Was chief of the Baron's minstrelsy:
'Silent, noble chieftain, we
Have sat since midnight close,
When such lulling sounds as the brooklet sings
Murmur'd from our melting strings
And hush'd you to repose.
Had a harp-note sounded here
It had caught my watchful ear,
Although it fell as faint and shy
As bashful maiden's half-form'd sigh,
When she thinks her lover near.'
Answer'd Philip of Fasthwaite tall --
He kept guard in the outer hall:
'Since at eve our watch took post,
Not a foot has thy portal cross'd;
Else had I heard the steps, though low
And light they fell, as when the earth receives,
In morn of frost, the wither'd leaves
That drop when no winds blow.'
'Then come thou hither, Henry, my page,
Whom I saved from the sack of Hermitage,
When that dark castle, tower, and spire,
Rose to the skies a pile of fire.
And redden'd all the Nine-stane Hill,
And the shrieks of death, that wildly broke
Through devouring flame and smothering smoke,
Made the warrior's heart-blood chill.
The trustiest thou of all my train,
My fleetest courser thou must rein,
And ride to Lyulph's tower,
And from the Baron of Treirmain
Greet well that sage of power.
He is sprung from Druid sires,
And British bards that tuned their lyres
To Arthur's and Pendragon's praise,
And his who sleeps at Dunmailraise.
Gifted like his gifted race,
He the characters can trace,
Graven deep in elder time,
Upon Helvellyn's cliffs sublime;
Sign and sigil well doth he know,
And can bode of weal and woe,
Of kingdoms' fall, and fate of wars,
From mystic dreams and course of stars.
He shall tell if middle earth,
To that enchanting shape gave birth,
Of if t'was but an airy thing,
Such as fantastic slumbers bring,
Fram'd from the rainbow's varying dyes
Or fading tints of western skies.
For, by the Blessed Rood I swear,
If that fair form breathe vital air,
No other maiden by my side
Shall ever rest De Vaux's bride!'
The faithful Page he mounts his steed,
And soon he cross'd green Irthing's mead,
Dash'd o'er Kirkoswald's verdant plain,
And Eden barr'd his course in vain.
He pass'd red Penrith's Table Round,
For feats of chivalry renown'd.
Left Mayburgh's mound and stones of power,
By Druid's raised in magic hour,
And traced the Eamont's winding way,
Till Ulfo's lake beneath him lay.
Onward he rode, the pathway still
Winding betwixt the lake and hill;
Till, on the fragment of a rock,
Struck from its base by lightning shock,
He saw the hoary Sage;
The silver moss and lichen twined,
With fern and deer-hair check'd and lined,
A cushion fit for age;
And o'er him shook the aspen-tree,
A restless, rustling canopy.
Then sprung young Henry from his selle,
And greeted Lyulph grave;
And then his master's tale did tell,
And then for counsel crave.
The Man of Years mused long and deep,
Of time's lost treasures taking keep,
And then, as rousing from a sleep,
His solemn answer gave.
'That maid is born of middle earth,
And may of man be won,
Though there have glided since her birth
Five hundred years and one,
But where's the knight in all the north
That dare the adventure follow forth,
So perilous to knightly worth,
In the valley of Saint John?
Listen, youth, to what I tell,
And bind it on thy memory well;
Nor muse that I commence the rhyme
Far distant 'mid the wrecks of time.
The mystic tale, by bard and sage,
Is handed down from Merlin's age.
'King Arthur has ridden from merry Carlisle
When Pentecost was o'er:
He journey'd like errant-knight the while,
And sweetly the summer sun did smile
On mountain, moss, and moor.
Above his solitary track
Rose Glaramara's ridgy back,
Amid whose yawning gulfs the sun
Cast umber'd radiance red and dun,
Though never sunbeam could discern
The surface of that sable tarn,
In whose black mirror you may spy
The stars, while noontide lights the sky.
The gallant King he skirted still
The margin of that mighty hill;
Rock upon rocks incumbent hung,
And torrents down the gullies flung,
Join'd the rude river that brawl'd on,
Recoiling now from crag and stone,
Now diving deep from human ken,
And raving down its darksome glen.
The Monarch judged this desert wild,
With such romantic ruin piled,
Was theatre by Nature's hand
For feat of high achievement plann'd.
'O rather he chose, that Monarch bold,
On vent'rous quest to ride,
In plate and mail, by wood and wold,
Than, with ermine trapp'd and cloth of gold,
In princely bower to bide:
The bursting crash of a foeman's spear
As it shiver'd against his mail,
Was merrier music to his ear
Than courtier's whisper'd tale:
And the clash of Caliburn more dear,
When on the hostile casque it rung,
Than all the lays
To their monarch's praise
That the harpers of Reged sung.
He loved better to rest by wood or river,
Than in bower of his bride, Dame Guenever,
For he left that lady, so lovely of cheer,
To follow adventures of danger and fear;
And the frank-hearted Monarch full little did wot
That she smiled in his absence, on brave Lancelot.
'He rode, till over down and dell
The shade more broad and deeper fell;
And though around the mountain's head
Flow'd streams of purple, and gold, and red,
Dark at the base, unblest by beam
Frown'd the black rocks, and roar'd the stream.
With toil the King his way pursued
By lonely Threlkeld's waste and wood,
Till on his course obliquely shone
The narrow valley of SAINT JOHN,
Down sloping to the western sky,
Where lingering sunbeams love to lie.
Right glad to feel those beams again,
The King drew up his charger's rein;
With gauntlet raised he screen'd his sight,
As dazzled with the level light,
And, from beneath his glove of mail,
Scann'd at his ease his the lovely vale,
While 'gainst the sun his armour bright
Gleam'd ruddy like the beacon's light.
'Paled in by many a lofty hill,
The narrow dale lay smooth and still,
And, down its verdant bosom led,
A winding brooklet found its bed.
But, midmost of the vale, a mound
Arose with airy turrets crown'd,
Buttress, and rampire's circling bound
And mighty keep and tower;
Seem'd some primeval giant's hand
The castle's massive walls had plann'd,
A ponderous bulwark to withstand
Ambitious Nimrod's power.
Above the moated entrance slung,
The balanced drawbridge trembling hung,
As jealous of a foe;
Wicket of oak, as iron hard,
With iron studded, clench'd, and barr'd,
And prong'd portcullis, join'd to guard
The gloomy pass below.
But the grey walls, no banners crown'd,
Upon the watch-tower's airy round
No warder stood his horn to sound,
No guard beside the drawbridge was found,
And, where the Gothic gateway frown'd
Glanced neither bill nor bow.
'Beneath the castle's gloomy pride
In ample round did Arthur ride
Three times; nor living thing he spied,
Nor heard a living sound,
Save that, awakening from her dream,
The owlet now began to scream,
In concert with the rushing stream,
That wash'd the battled mound.
He lighted from his goodly steed,
And left him to graze on bank and mead;
And slowly he climb'd the narrow way
That reach'd the entrance grim and grey,
And he stood the outward arch below,
And his bugle-horn prepared to blow,
In summons blithe and bold,
Deeming to rouse from iron sleep
The guardian of this dismal Keep,
Which well he guess'd the hold
Of wizard stern, or goblin grim,
Or pagan of gigantic limb,
The tyrant of the wold.
'The ivory bugle's golden tip
Twice touch'd the Monarch's manly lip,
And twice his hand withdrew.
Think not but Arthur's heart was good!
His shield was cross'd by the blessed rood,
Had a pagan host before him stood
He had charged them through and through;
Yet the silence of that ancient place
Sunk on his heart, and he paused a space
Ere yet his horn he blew.
But, instant as its 'larum rung,
The castle gate was open flung,
Portcullis rose with crashing groan
Full harshly up its groove of stone;
And down the trembling drawbridge cast;
The vaulted arch before him lay,
With nought to bar the gloomy way,
And onward Arthur paced, with hand
On Caliburn's resistless brand.
'An hundred torches, flashing bright,
Dispell'd at once the gloomy night
That lour'd along the walls,
And show'd the King's astonish'd sight
The inmates of the halls.
Nor wizard stern, nor goblin grim,
Nor giant huge of form and limb,
Nor heathen knight, was there;
But the cressets, which odours flung aloft,
Show'd by their yellow light and soft,
A band of damsels fair.
Onward they came, like summer wave
That dances to the shore;
An hundred voices welcome gave,
And welcome o'er and o'er!
An hundred lovely hands assail
The bucklers of the Monarch's mail,
And busy labour'd to unhasp
Rivet of steel and iron clasp,
One wrapp'd him in a mantle fair,
And one flung odours on his hair;
His short curl'd ringlets one smooth'd down,
One wreath'd them in a myrtle crown.
A bride upon her wedding-day
Was tended ne'er by troop so gay.
'Loud laugh'd they all,-- the King, in vain,
With questions task'd the giddy train;
Let him entreat, or crave, or call,
'Twas one reply -- loud laugh'd they all.
Then o'er him mimic chains they fling,
Framed of the fairest flowers of spring.
While some of their gentle force unite
Onwards to drag the wondering knight;
Some, bolder, urge his pace with blows,
Dealt with the lily or the rose.
Behind him were in triumph borne
The warlike arms he late had worn.
Four of the train combined to rear
The terrors of Tintadgel's spear;
Two, laughing at their lack of strength,
Dragg'd Caliburn in cumbrous length;
One, while she aped a martial stride,
Placed on her brows the helmit's pride;
Then scream'd, 'twixt laughter and surprise,
To feel its depth o'erwhelm her eyes.
With revel-shout, and triumph-song,
Thus gaily march'd the giddy throng.
'Through many a gallery and hall
They led, I ween, their royal thrall;
At length, beneath a fair arcade
Their march and song at once they staid.
The eldest maiden of the band
(The lovely maid was scarce eighteen)
Raised, with imposing air, her hand
And reverent silence did command,
On entrance of their Queen,
And they were mute, -- But as a glance
They steal on Arthur's countenance
Bewilder'd with surprise,
Their smother'd mirth again 'gan speak,
In archly dimpled chin and cheek,
And laughter-lighted eyes.
'The attributes of those high days
Now only live in minstrel lays;
For Nature, now exhausted, still
Was then profuse of good and ill.
Strength was gigantic, valour high,
And wisdom soar'd beyond the sky,
And beauty had such matchless beam
As lights not now a lover's dream.
Yet e'en in that romantic age,
Ne'er were such charms by mortal seen,
As Arthur's dazzled eyes engage,
When forth on that enchanted stage,
With glittering train of maid and page,
Advanced the castle's Queen!
While up the hall she slowly pass'd
Her dark eye on the King she cast,
That flash'd expression strong;
The longer dwelt that lingering look,
Her cheek the livelier colour took,
And scarce the shame-faced King could brook
The gaze that lasted long.
A sage, who had that look espied,
Where kindling passion strove with pride,
Had whispered, "Prince, beware!
From the chafed tiger rend the prey,
Rush on the lion when at bay
Bar the fell dragon's blighted way,
But shun that lovely snare!"
'At once, that inward strife suppress'd,
The dame approach'd her warlike guest,
With greeting in that fair degree,
Where female pride and courtesy
Are blended with such passing art
As awes at once and charms the heart.
A courtly welcome first she gave,
Then of his goodness 'gan to crave
Construction fair and true
Of her light maidens' idle mirth
Who drew from lovely glens their birth,
Nor knew to pay to stranger worth
And dignity their due;
Then she pray'd that he would rest
That night her castle's honour'd guest.
The Monarch meetly thanks express'd;
The banquet rose at her behest;
With lay and tale, and laugh and jest,
Apace the evening flew.
'The Lady sate the Monarch by,
Now in her turn abash'd and shy,
And with indifference seem'd to hear
They toys he whisper'd in her ear.
Her bearing modest was and fair,
Yet shadows of constraint were there,
That show'd an over-cautious care
Some inward thought to hide;
Oft did she pause in full reply,
And oft cast down her large dark eye,
Oft check'd the soft voluptuous sigh
That heav'd her bosom's pride.
Slight symptoms these, but shepherds know
How hot the mid-day sun shall glow
From the midst of morning sky;
And so the wily Monarch guess'd
That this assumed restraint express'd
More ardent passions in the breast
Than ventured to the eye.
Closer he press'd, while beakers rang,
While maidens laugh'd and minstrels sang,
Still closer to her ear --
But why pursue the common tale?
Or wherefore show how knights prevail
When ladies dare to hear?
Or wherefore, trace, from what slight cause
Its source one tyrant passion draws,
Till, mastering all within,
Where lives the man that has not tried
How mirth can into folly glide,
And folly into sin?
Lyulph's Tale, Continued.
'Another day, another day,
And yet another, glides away!
The Saxon stern, the pagan Dane,
Maraud on Britain's shores again.
Arthur, of Christendom the flower,
Lies loitering in a lady's bower;
The horn, that foemen wont to fear,
Sounds but to wake the Cumbrian deer,
And Caliburn, the British pride,
Hangs useless by a lover's side.
'Another day, another day,
And yet another, glides away!
Heroic plans in pleasure drown'd,
He thinks not of the Table Round;
In lawless love dissolved his life,
He thinks not of his beauteous wife:
Better he loves to snatch a flower
From the bosom of his paramour,
Than from a Saxon knight to wrest
The honours of his heathen crest!
Better to wreathe, 'mid tresses brown,
The heron's plume her hawk struck down,
Than o'er the alter give to flow
The banners of a Paynim foe.
Thus, week by week, and day by day,
His life inglorious glides away:
But she, that soothes his dream, with fear
Beholds his hour of waking near!
'Much force have mortal charms to stay
Our peace in Virtue's toilsome way;
But Guendolen's might far outshine
Each maid of merely mortal line.
Her mother was of human birth,
Her sire a Genie of the earth,
In days of old deem'd to preside
O'er lovers' wiles and beauty's pride,
By youths and virgins worshipp'd long
With festive dance and choral song,
Till, when the cross to Britain came,
On heathen alters died the flame.
Now, deep in Wastdale solitude,
The downfall of his rights he rued,
And, born of his resentment heir,
He train'd to guile that lady fair,
To sink in slothful sin and shame
The champions of the Christian name.
Well skill'd to keep vain thoughts alive,
And all to promise, nought to give;
The timid youth had hope in store,
The bold and pressing gain'd no more.
As wilder'd children leave their home
After the rainbow's arch to roam,
Her lovers barter'd fair esteem,
Faith, fame, and honour, for a dream.
'Her sire's soft arts the soul to tame
She practised thus, till Arthur came;
Then frail humanity had part,
And all the mother claim'd her heart.
Forgot each rule her father gave,
Sunk from a princess to a slave,
Too late must Guendolen deplore;
He, that has all, can hope no more!
Now must she see her lover strain,
At every turn, her feeble chain;
Watch, to new-bind each knot, and shrink
To view each fast-decaying link.
Art she invokes to Nature's aid,
Her vest to zone, her locks to braid;
Each varied pleasure heard her call,
The feast, the tourney, and the ball:
Her storied lore she next applies,
Taxing her mind to aid her eyes;
Now more than mortal wise, and then
In female softness sunk again;
Now, raptured, with each wish complying,
With feigned reluctance now denying:
Each charm she varied, to retain
A varying heart, and all in vain!
'Thus in the garden's narrow bound,
Flank'd by some castle's Gothic round,
Fain would the artist's skill provide
The limits of his realms to hide.
The walks in labyrinths he twines,
Shade after shade with skill combines,
With many a varied flowery knot,
And copse, and arbour, decks the spot,
Tempting the hasty foot to stay,
And linger on the lovely way;
Vain art! vain hope! 'tis fruitless all!
At length we reach the bounding wall,
And, sick of flower and trim-dress'd tree,
Long for rough glades and forest free.
'Three summer months had scantly flown
When Arthur, in embarrass'd tone,
Spoke of his liegemen and his throne;
Said, all too long had been his stay,
And duties, which a monarch sway,
Duties, unknown to humbler men,
Must tear her knight from Guendolen.
She listen'd silently the while,
Her mood express'd in bitter smile;
Beneath her eye must Arthur quail,
And oft resume the unfinish'd tale.
Confessing, by his downcast eye,
The wrong he sought to justify.
He ceased. A moment mute she gazed,
And then her looks to heaven she rais'd;
One palm her temples veiled, to hide
The tear that sprung in spite of pride;
The other for an instant press'd
The foldings of her silken vest!
'At her reproachful sign and look,
The hint the Monarch's conscience took.
Eager he spoke -- "No, lady, no!
Deem not of British Arthur so,
Nor think he can deserter prove
To the dear pledge of mutual love.
I swear by sceptre and by sword,
As belted knight and Britain's lord,
That if a boy shall claim my care,
That boy is born a kingdom's heir;
But if a maiden Fate allows,
To choose that maid a fitting spouse,
A summer-day in lists shall strive
My knights, the bravest knights alive,
And he, the best and bravest tried,
Shall Arthur's daughter claim for bride."
He spoke, with voice resolved and high;
The lady deign'd him not reply.
'At dawn of morn, ere on the brake
His matins did a warbler make,
Or stirr'd his wing to brush away
A single dewdrop from the spray,
Ere yet a sunbeam, through the mist,
The castle-battlements had kiss'd,
The gates revolve, the drawbridge falls,
And Arthur sallies from the walls.
Doff'd his soft garb of Persia's loom,
And steel from spur to helmet-plume,
His Lybian steed full proudly trode,
And joyful neigh'd beneath his load.
The Monarch gave a passing sigh
To penitence and pleasures by,
When, lo! to his astonish'd ken
Appear'd the form of Guendolen.
'Beyond the outmost wall she stood,
Attired like huntress of the wood:
Sandall'd her feet, her ankles bare,
And eagle-plumage deck'd her hair;
Firm was her look, her bearing bold,
And in her hand a cup of gold.
"Thou goest!" she said, "and ne'er again
Must we two meet, in joy or pain.
Full fain would I this hour delay,
Though weak the wish -- yet, wilt thou stay?
No! thou look'st forward. Still, attend!
Part we like lover and like friend."
She raised the cup -- "Not this the juice
The sluggish vines of earth produce;
Pledge we, at parting, in the draught
Which Genii love!" She said, and quaff'd;
And strange unwonted lustres fly
From her flush'd cheek and sparkling eye.
'The courteous Monarch bent him low,
And, stooping down from saddlebow,
Lifted the cup, in act to drink.
A drop escaped the goblet's brink --
Intense as liquid fire from hell,
Upon the charger's neck it fell.
Screaming with agony and fright,
He bolted twenty feet upright!
The peasant still can show the dint
Where his hoofs lighted on the flint.
From Arthur's hand the goblet flew,
Scattering a shower of fiery dew,
That burn'd and blighted where it fell!
The frantic steed rush'd up the dell,
As whistles from the bow the reed;
Nor bit nor rein could check his speed
Until he gain'd the hill;
Then breath and sinew fail'd apace
And, reeling from the desperate race,
He stood, exhausted, still.
The Monarch, breathless and amazed,
Back on the fatal castle gazed:
Nor tower nor donjon could he spy,
Darkening against the morning sky;
But, on the spot where they once frown'd,
The lonely streamlet brawl'd around
A tufted knoll, where dimly shone
Fragments of rock and rifted stone.
Musing on this strange hap a while,
The King wends back to fair Carlisle;
And cares, that cumber royal sway,
Wore memory of the past away.
'Full fifteen years and more were sped,
Each brought new wreaths to Arthur's head.
Twelve bloody fields, with glory fought,
The Saxons to subjection brought:
Rython, the mighty giant, slain
By his good brand, relieved Bretagne:
The Pictish Gillamore in fight,
And Roman Lucius, own'd his might;
And wide were through the world renown'd
The glories of his Table Round.
Each knight who sought adventurous fame,
To the bold court of Britain came,
And all who suffer'd causeless wrong,
From tyrant proud, or faitour strong,
Sought Arthur's presence, to complain,
Nor there for aid implored in vain.
'For this the King, with pomp and pride,
Held solemn court at Whitsuntide,
And summon'd Prince and Peer,
All who owed homage for their land
Or who craved knighthood from his hand,
Or who had succour to demand,
To come from far and near.
At such high tide were glee and game
Mingled with feats of martial fame,
For many a stranger champion came
In lists to break a spear;
And not a knight in Arthur's host,
Save that he trode on some foreign coast,
But at this Feast of Pentecost
Before him must appear.
Ah, Minstrels! when the Table Round
Arose, with all its warriors crown'd,
There was a theme for bards to sound
In triumph to their string!
Five hundred years are past and gone,
But Time shall draw his dying groan
Ere he behold the British throne
Begirt with such a ring!
'The heralds named the appointed spot,
As Caerleon or Camelot,
Or Carlisle fair and free.
At Penrith, now, the feast was set,
And in fair Eamont's vale were met
The flower of Chivalry.
There Galahad sate with manly grace,
Yet maiden meekness in his face;
There Morolt of the iron mace,
And love-lorn Tristrem there:
And Dinadam with lively glance,
And Lanval with the fairy lance,
And Mordred with his look askance,
Brunor and Bevidere.
Why should I tell of numbers more?
Sir Cay, Sir Banier, Sir Bore,
Sir Carodac the keen,
The gentle Gawain's courteous lore,
Hector de Mares and Pellinore,
And Lancelot, that evermore
Look'd stol'n-wise on the Queen.
'When wine and mirth did most abound,
And harpers play'd their blithest round,
A shrilly trumpet shook the ground,
And marshals cleared the ring;
A maiden, on a palfrey white,
Heading a band of damsels bright,
Paced through the circle, to alight
And kneel before the King.
Arthur, with strong emotion, saw
Her graceful boldness check'd by awe,
Her dress, like huntress of the wold,
Her bow and baldric trapp'd with gold,
Her sandall'd feet, her ankles bare,
And the eagle-plume that deck'd her hair.
Graceful her veil she backward flung;
The King, as from his seat he sprung,
Almost cried "Guendolen!"
But 'twas a face more frank and wild,
Betwixt the woman and the child,
Where less of magic beauty smiled
Than of the race of men;
And in the forehead's haughty grace
The lines of Britain's royal race,
Pendragon's, you might ken.
'Faltering, yet gracefully she said --
"Great Prince! behold an orphan maid,
In her departed mother's name,
A father's vow'd protection claim!
The vow was sworn in desert lone,
In the deep valley of Saint John."
At once the King the suppliant raised,
And kiss'd her brow, her beauty praised;
His vow, he said, should well be kept,
Ere in the sea the sun was dipp'd;
Then, conscious, glanced upon his queen;
But she, unruffled at the scene
Of human frailty, construed mild,
Look'd upon Lancelot, and smiled.
'"Up! up! each knight of gallant crest,
Take buckler, spear, and brand!
He that to-day shall bear him best
Shall win my Gyneth's hand.
And Arthur's daughter, when a bride,
Shall bring a noble dower;
Both fair Strath-Clyde and Reged wide,
And Carlisle town and tower."
Then might you hear each valiant knight
To page and squire that cried,
"Bring my armour bright, and my courser wight!
'Tis not each day that a warrior's might
May win a royal bride."
Then cloaks and caps of maintenance
In haste aside they fling;
The helmets glance, and gleams the lance,
And the steel-weaved hauberks ring.
Small care had they of their peaceful array, --
They might gather it that wolde;
For brake and bramble glitter'd gay
With pearls and cloth of gold.
'Within trumpet sound of the Table Round
Were fifty champions free,
And they all arise to fight that prize,
They all arise but three.
Nor love's fond troth, nor wedlock's oath,
One gallant could withhold,
For priests will allow of a broken vow
For penance or for gold.
But sigh and glance from ladies bright
Among the troop were thrown,
To plead their right, and true-love plight,
And 'plain of honor flown.
The knights they busied them so fast,
With buckling spur and belt,
That sigh and look, by ladies cast,
Were neither seen or felt.
From pleading, or upbraiding glance,
Each gallant turns aside,
And only thought, "If speeds my lance,
A queen becomes my bride!
She has fair Strath-Clyde, and Reged wide,
And Carlisle tower and town;
She is the loveliest maid, beside,
That ever heir'd a crown."
So in haste their coursers they bestride,
And strike their visors down.
'The champions, arm'd in martial sort,
Have throng'd into the list,
And but three knights of Arthur's court
Are from the tourney miss'd.
And still these lovers' fame survives
For faith so constant shown, --
There were two who loved their neighbors' wives,
And one who loved his own.
The first was Lancelot de Lac,
The second Tristrem bold,
The third was valiant Carodac,
Who won the cup of gold,
What time, of all King Arthur's crew
(Thereof came jeer and laugh)
He, as the mate of lady true,
Alone the cup could quaff.
Though envy's tongue would fain surmise
That, but for very shame,
Sir Carodac, to fight that prize,
Had given both cup and dame;
Yet, since but one of that fair court
Was true to wedlock's shrine,
Brand him who will with base report,
He shall be free from mine.
'Now caracoled the steeds in air,
Now plumes and pennons wanton'd fair,
As all around the lists so wide
In panoply the champions ride.
King Arthur saw, with startled eye,
The flower of chivalry march by,
The bulwark of the Christian creed,
The kingdom's shield in hour of need.
Too late he thought him of the woe
Might from their civil conflict flow;
For well he knew they would not part
Till cold was many a gallant heart.
His hasty vow he 'gan to rue,
And Gyneth then apart he drew;
To her his leading-staff resign'd,
But added caution grave and kind.
'"Thou see'st, my child, as promise-bound,
I bid the trump for tourney sound.
Take thou my warder, as the queen
And umpire of the martial scene;
But mark thou this: as Beauty bright
Is polar star to valiant knight,
As at her word his sword he draws,
His fairest guerdon her applause,
So gentle maid should never ask
Of knighthood vain and dangerous task;
And Beauty's eyes should ever be
Like the twin stars that soothe the sea,
And Beauty's breath shall whisper peace,
And bid the storm of battle cease.
I tell thee this, lest all too far
These knights urge tourney into war.
Blithe at the trumpet let them go,
And fairly counter blow for blow;
No striplings these, who succour need
For a razed helm or a falling steed.
But, Gyneth, when the strife grows warm,
And threatens death or deadly harm,
Thy sire entreats, thy king commands,
Thou drop the warder from thy hands.
Trust thou thy father with thy fate,
Doubt not he choose thee fitting mate;
Nor be it said, through Gyneth's pride
A rose of Arthur's chaplet died."
'A proud and discontented glow
O'ershadow'd Gyneth's brow of snow;
She put the warder by:
"Reserve thy boon, my liege," she said,
"Thus chaffer'd down and limited,
Debased and narrow'd, for a maid
Of less degree than I.
No petty chief, but holds his heir
At a more honour'd price and rare
Than Britain's King holds me!
Although the sun-burn'd maid, for dower,
Has but her father's rugged tower,
His barren hill and lee.
King Arthur swore, By crown and sword,
As belted knight and Britain's lord,
That a whole summer's day should strive
His knights, the bravest knights alive!
Recall thine oath! and to her glen
Poor Gyneth can return agen;
Not on thy daughter will the stain,
That soils thy sword and crown, remain.
But think not she will e'er be bride
Save to the bravest, proved and tried;
Pendragon's daughter will not fear
For clashing sword or splinter'd spear,
Nor shrink though blood should flow;
And all to well sad Guendolen
Hath taught the faithlessness of men,
That child of hers should pity, when
Their meed they undergo."
'He frown'd and sigh'd, the Monarch bold:
"I give what I may not withhold;
For not for danger, dread, or death,
Must British Arthur break his faith.
Too late I mark thy mother's art
Hath taught thee this relentless part
I blame her not, for she hath wrong,
But not to these my faults belong.
Use, then, the warder as thou wilt;
But trust me, that, if life be spilt,
In Arthur's love, in Arthur's grace,
Gyneth shall lose a daughter's place."
With that he turn'd his head aside,
Nor brook'd to gaze upon her pride,
As, with the truncheon raised, she sate
The arbitress of mortal fate;
Nor brook'd to mark, in ranks disposed,
How the bold champions stood opposed,
For shrill the trumpet-flourish fell
Upon his ear like passing bell!
Then first from sight of martial fray
Did Britain's hero turn away.
'But Gyneth heard the clangour high
As hears the hawk the partridge cry.
Oh, blame her not; the blood was hers
That at the trumpet's summons stirs!
And e'en the gentlest female eye
Might the brave strife of chivalry
Awhile untroubled view;
So well accomplish'd was each knight,
To strike and to defend in fight,
Their meeting was a goodly sight,
While plate and mail held true.
The lists with painted plumes were strown,
Upon the wind at random thrown,
But helm and breastplate bloodless shone,
It seem'd their feather'd crests alone
Should this encounter rue.
And ever, as the combat grows,
The trumpet's cheery voice arose,
Like lark's shrill song the flourish flows,
Heard while the gale of April blows
The merry greenwood through.
'But soon to earnest grew their game,
The spears drew blood, the swords struck flame,
And, horse and man, to ground there came
Knights who shall rise no more!
Gone was the pride the war that graced,
Gay shields were cleft, and crests defaced ,
And steel coats riven, and helms unbraced,
And pennons stream'd with gore.
Gone, too, were fence and fair array,
And desperate strength made deadly way
At random through the bloody fray,
And blows were dealt with headlong sway,
Unheeding where they fell;
And now the trumpet's clamours seem
Like the shrill sea-bird's wailing scream,
Heard o'er the whirlpool's gulfing stream,
The sinking seaman's knell!
'Seem'd in this dismal hour, that Fate
Would Camlan's ruin antedate,
And spare dark Mordred's crime;
Already gasping on the ground
Lie twenty of the Table Round,
Of chivalry the prime.
Arthur, in anguish, tore away
From head and beard his tresses grey,
And she, proud Gyneth, felt dismay,
And quaked with ruth and fear;
But still she deem'd her mother's shade
Hung o'er the tumult, and forbade
The sign that had the slaughter staid,
And chid the rising tear.
Then Brunor, Taulas, Mador, fell,
Helias the White, and Lionel,
And many a champion more;
Rochemont and Dinadam are down,
And Ferrand of the Forest Brown
Lies gasping in his gore.
Vanoc, by mighty Morolt press'd
Even to the confines of the list,
Young Vanoc of the beardless face
(Fame spoke the youth of Merlin's race)
O'erpower'd at Gyneth's footstool bled,
His heart's-blood dyed her sandals red.
But then the sky was overcast,
Then howl'd at once a whirlwind's blast,
And, rent by sudden throes,
Yawn'd in mid lists the quaking earth,
And from the gulf, tremendous birth!
The form of Merlin rose.
'Sternly the Wizard Prophet eyed
The dreary lists with slaughter dyed,
And sternly raised his hand:
"Madmen," he said, "your strife forbear;
And thou, fair cause of mischief, hear
The doom thy fates demand!
Long shall close in stony sleep
Eyes for ruth that would not weep;
Iron lethargy shall seal
Heart that pity scorn'd to feel.
Yet, because thy mother's art
Warp'd thine unsuspicious heart,
And for love of Arthur's race,
Punishment is blent with grace,
Thou shalt bear thy penance lone
In the Valley of Saint John,
And this weird shall overtake thee;
Sleep, until a knight shall awake thee,
For feats of arms as far renown'd
As warrior of the Table Round.
Long endurance of thy slumber
Well may teach the world to number
All their woes from Gyneth's pride,
When the Red Cross champions died."
'As Merlin speaks, on Gyneth's eye
Slumber's load begins to lie;
Fear and anger vainly strive
Still to keep its light alive.
Twice, with effort and with pause,
O'er her brow her hand she draws;
Twice her strength in vain she tries,
From the fatal chair to rise;
Merlin's magic doom is spoken,
Vanoc's death must now be wroken.
Slow the dark-fringed eyelids fall,
Curtaining each azure ball,
Slowly as on summer eves
Violets fold their dusky leaves.
The weighty baton of command
Now bears down on her sinking hand,
On her shoulder droops her head;
Net of pearl and golden thread,
Bursting, gave her locks to flow
O'er her arm and breast of snow.
And so lovely seem'd she there,
Spell-bound in her ivory chair,
That her angry sire, repenting,
Craved stern Merlin for relenting,
And the champions, for her sake,
Would again the contest wake;
Till, in necromantic night,
Gyneth vanish'd from their sight.
'Still she bears her weird alone,
In the Valley of Saint John;
And her semblance oft will seem,
Mingling in a champion's dream,
Of her weary lot to 'plain,
And crave his aid to burst her chain.
While her wondrous tale was new,
Warriors to her rescue drew,
East and west, and south and north,
From the Liffy, Thames, and Forth.
Most have sought in vain the glen,
Tower nor castle could they ken;
Not at every time or tide,
Nor by every eye, descried.
Fast and vigil must be borne,
Many a night in watching worn,
Ere an eye of mortal powers
Can discern those magic towers.
Of the persevering few,
Some from hopeless task withdrew,
When the read the dismal threat
Graved upon the gloomy gate.
Few have braved the yawning door,
And those few return'd no more.
In the lapse of time forgot,
Wellnigh lost is Gyneth's lot;
Sound her sleep as in the tomb,
Till waken'd by the trump of doom."
End of Lyulph's Tale.
Here pause my tale! for all too soon,
My Lucy, comes the hour of noon.
Already from thy lofty dome
Its courtly inmates 'gin to roam,
And each, to kill the goodly day
That God has granted them, his way
Of lazy sauntering has sought;
Lordlings and witlings not a few,
Incapable of doing aught,
Yet ill at ease with nought to do.
Here, is no longer place for me;
For, Lucy, thou wouldst blush to see
Some phantom. fashionably thin,
With limb of lath and kerchief'd chin,
And lounging gape, or sneering grin,
Steal sudden on our privacy.
And how should I, so humbly born,
Endure the graceful spectre's scorn!
Faith! ill, I fear, while conjuring wand
Of English oak is hard at hand.
Or grant the hour be all too soon
For Hessian boot and pantaloon,
And grant the lounger seldom strays
Beyond the smooth and gravell'd maze,
Laud we the gods, that Fashion's train
Holds hearts of more adventurous strain.
Artists are hers, who scorn to trace
Their rules from Nature's boundless grace,
But their right paramount assert
To limit her by pendant art,
Damning whate'er of vast and fair
Exceeds a canvas three feet square.
This thicket, for their gumption fit,
May furnish such a happy bit .
Bard, too, are hers, wont to recite
Their own sweet lays by waxen light,
Half in the salver's tingle drown'd,
While the chasse-cafè glides around;
And such may hither secret stray,
To labor an extempore:
Or sportsman, with his boisterous hollo,
May here his wiser spaniel follow;
Or stage-struck Juliet may presume
To choose this bower for tiring-room;
And we alike must shun regard,
From painter, player, sportsman, bard.
Insects that skim in Fashion's sky,
Wasp, blue-bottle, or butterfly,
Lucy, have all alarms for us,
For all can hum and all can buzz.
But oh, my Lucy, say how long
We still must dread this trifling throng,
And stoop to hide, with coward art,
The genuine feelings of the heart!
No parent thine whose just command
Should rule their child's obedient hand;
Thy guardians, with contending voice
Press each his individual choice.
And which is Lucy's? Can it be
That puny fop, trimm'd cap-a-pie,
Who loves in the saloon to show
The arms that never knew a foe;
Whose sabre trails along the ground,
Whose legs in shapeless boots are drown'd;
A new Achilles, sure! the steel
Fled from his breast to fence his heel;
One, for the simple manly grace
That wont to deck our martial race,
Who comes in foreign trashery
Of tinkling chain and spur,
A walking haberdashery,
Of feathers, lace and fur:
In Rowley's antiquated phrase,
Horse-milliner of modern days?
Or is it he, the wordy youth,
So early train'd for statesman's part,
Who talks of honour, faith, and truth,
As themes that he has got by heart;
Whose ethics Chesterfield can teach,
Whose logic is from Single-speech;
Who scorns the meanest thought to vent,
Save in the phrase of Parliament;
Who, in a tale of cat and mouse,
Calls 'order' and 'divides the house,'
Who 'craves permission to reply,'
Whose 'noble friend is in his eye;'
Whose loving tender some have reckon'd
A motion, you should gladly second?
What! neither? Can there be a third,
To such resistless swains preferr'd?
Oh why, my Lucy, turn aside,
With that quick glance of injured pride?
Forgive me, love, I cannot bear
That alter'd and resentful air.
Were all the wealth of Russell mine,
And all the rank of Howard's line,
All would I give for leave to dry
That dewdrop trembling in thine eye.
Think not I fear such fops can wile
From Lucy more than careless smile;
But yet if wealth and high degree
Give gilded counters currency,
Must I not fear, when rank and birth
Stamp the pure ore of genuine worth?
Nobles there are, whose martial fires
Rival the fame that raised their sires,
And patriots, skill'd through storms of fate
To glide and guard the reeling state.
Such, such there are: if such should come,
Arthur must tremble and be dumb,
Self-exiled seek some distant shore,
And mourn till life and grief are o'er.
What sight, what signal of alarm,
That Lucy clings to Arthur's arm?
Or is it, that the rugged way
Makes Beauty lean on lover's stay?
Oh, no! for on the vale and brake
Nor sight nor sounds of danger wake,
And this trim sward of velvet green
Were carpet for the Fairy Queen.
That pressure slight was but to tell
That Lucy loves her Arthur well,
And fain would banish from his mind
Suspicious fear and doubt unkind.
But wouldst thou bid the demons fly
Like mist before the dawning sky,
There is but one resistless spell--
Say, wilt thou guess, or must I tell?
'Twere hard to name, in minstrel phrase,
A laudaulet and four blood-bays,
But bards agree this wizard band
Can but be bound in Northern land.
'Tis there--nay, draw not back thy hand!
'Tis there this slender finger round
Must golden amulet be bound,
Which, bless'd with many a holy prayer,
Can change to rapture lover's care,
And doubt and jealousy shall die,
And fears give place to ecstasy.
Now, trust me, Lucy, all too long
Has been thy lover's tale and song.
O, why so silent, love, I pray?
Have I not spoke the livelong day?
And will not Lucy deign to say
One word her friend to bless.
I ask but one, a simple sound,
Within three little letters bound,
O, let the word be Yes!
Introduction to Canto Third
Long loved, long woo'd, and lately won,
My life's best hope, and now mine own!
Doth not this rude and Alpine glen
Recall our favourite haunts agen?
A wild resemblance we can trace,
Though reft of every softer grace,
As the rough warrior's brow may bear
A likeness to a sister fair.
Full well advised our Highland host,
That this wild pass on foot be cross'd,
While round Ben-Cruach's mighty base
Wheel the slow steeds and lingering chaise.
The keen old carle, with Scottish pride,
He praised his glen and mountains wide;
An eye he bears for Nature's face,
Ay, and for woman's lovely grace.
Even in such mean degree we find
The subtle Scot's observing mind;
For, nor the chariot nor the train
Could gape of vulgar wonder gain,
But when old Allan would expound
Of Beal-na-paish the Celtic sound,
His bonnet doff'd, and bow, applied
His legend to my bonny bride;
While Lucy blush'd beneath his eye,
Courteous and cautious, shrewd and sly.
Enough of him. Now, ere we lose,
Plunged in the vale, the distant views,
Turn thee, my love! look back once more
To the blue lake's retiring shore.
On its smooth breast the shadows seem
Like objects in a morning dream,
What time the slumberer is aware
He sleeps, and all the vision's air:
Even so, on yonder liquid lawn,
In hues of bright reflection drawn,
Distinct the shaggy mountains lie,
Distinct the rocks, distinct the sky:
The summer-clouds so plain we note
That we might count each dappled spot:
We gaze and we admire, yet know
The scene is all delusive show.
Such dreams of bliss would Arthur draw
When first his Lucy's form he saw;
Yet sigh'd and sicken'd as he drew,
Despairing they could e'er prove true!
But, Lucy, turn thee now, to view
Up the fair glen, our destined way:
The fairy path that we pursue,
Distinguish'd but by greener hue,
Winds round the purple brae,
While Alpine flowers of varied dye
For carpet serve, or tapestry.
See how the little runnels leap,
In threads of silver, down the steep,
To swell the brooklet's moan!
Seems that the Highland Naiad grieves,
Fantastic while her crown she weaves,
Of rowan, birch, and alder leaves,
So lovely, and so lone.
There's no illusion there; these flowers,
That wailing brook, these lovely bowers,
Are, Lucy, all our own;
And since thine Arthur call'd thee wife,
Such seems the prospect of his life,
A lovely path, on-winding still,
By gurgling brook and sloping hill.
'Tis true, that mortals cannot tell
What waits them in the distant dell;
But be it hap, or be it harm,
We tread the pathway arm in arm.
And now, my Lucy, wot'st thou why
I could thy bidding twice deny,
When twice you pray'd I would again
Resume the legendary strain
Of the bold Knight of Triermain?
At length yon peevish vow you swore,
That you would sue to me no more,
Until the minstrel fit drew near,
And made me prize a listening ear.
But, loveliest, when thou first didst pray
Continuance of the knightly lay,
Was it not on the happy day
That made thy hand mine own?
When, dizzied with mine ecstasy,
Nought past, or present, or to be,
Could I or think on, hear, or see,
Save, Lucy, thee alone!
A giddy draught my rapture was,
As ever a chemist's magic gas.
Again the summons I denied
In yon fair capital of Clyde:
My Harp -- or let me rather choose
The good old classic form -- my Muse,
(For Harp's an over-scutchèd phrase,
Worn out by bards of modern days)
My Muse, then -- seldom will she wake,
Save by dim wood and silent lake;
She is the wild and rustic Maid,
Whose foot unsandall'd loves to tread
Where the soft greensward is inlaid
With varied moss and thyme;
And, lest the simple lily-braid
That coronets her temples fade,
She hides her still in greenwood shade
To meditate her rhyme.
And now she comes. The murmur dear
Of the wild brook hath caught her ear,
The glade hath won her eye;
She longs to join with each blithe rill
That dances down the Highland hill
Her blither melody.
And now, my Lucy's way to cheer,
She bids Ben-Cruach's echoes hear
How closed the tale my love whilere
Loved for its chivalry.
List how she tells, in notes of flame,
'Childe Roland to the dark tower came!'
Bewcastle now must keep the Hold,
Speir-Adam's steeds must bide in stall,
Of Hartley-burn the bowmen bold
Must only shoot from battled wall;
And Liddesdale my buckle spur,
And Teviot now may belt the brand,
Taras and Ewes keep nightly stir,
And Eskdale foray Cumberland.
Of wasted fields and plunder'd flocks
The Borderers bootless may complain;
They lack the sword of brave de Vaux,
There comes no aid from Triermain.
That lord, on high adventure bound,
Hath wander'd forth alone,
And day and night keeps watchful round
In the valley of Saint John.
When first began his vigil bold,
The moon twelve summer nights was old,
And shone both fair and full;
High in the vault of cloudless blue,
O'er streamlet, dale, and rock, she threw
Her light composed and cool.
Stretch'd on the brown hill's heathy breast,
Sir Roland, eyed the vale;
Chief where, distinguish'd from the rest,
Those clustering rocks uprear'd their crest,
The dwelling of the fair distress'd,
As told grey Lyulph's tale.
Thus as he lay, the lamp of night
Was quivering on his armour bright,
In beams that rose, and fell,
And danced upon his buckler's boss
That lay beside him on the moss,
As on a crystal well.
Ever he watch'd, and oft he deem'd,
While on the mound the moonlight stream'd,
It alter'd to his eyes;
Fain would he hope the rocks 'gan change
To butress'd walls their shapeless range,
Fain think, by transmutation strange,
He saw grey turrets rise.
But scarce his heart with hope throbb'd high,
Before the wild illusions fly
Which fancy had conceived,
Abetted by an anxious eye,
That long'd to be deceived.
It was a fond deception all,
Such as, in a solitary hall,
Beguiles the musing eye,
When, gazing on the sinking fire,
Bulwark, and battlement, and spire,
In the red gulf we spy.
For, seen by moon of middle night,
Or by the blaze of noontide bright,
Or by the dawn of morning light,
Or evening's western flame,
In every tide, at every hour,
In mist, in sunshine, and in shower,
The rocks remain'd the same.
Oft has he traced the charmed mound,
Oft climb'd its crest, or paced it round,
Yet nothing might explore,
Save that the crags so rudely piled,
At distance seen, resemblance wild
To a rough fortress bore.
Yet still his watch the warrior keeps,
Feeds hard and spare, and seldom sleeps,
And drinks but of the well:
Ever by day he walks the hill,
And when the evening gale is chill,
He seeks a rocky cell,
Like hermit poor to bid his bead,
And tell his Ave and his Creed,
Invoking every saint at need,
For aid to burst his spell.
And now the moon her orb has hid,
And dwindled to a silver thread,
Dim seen in middle heaven,
While o'er its curve careering fast,
Before the fury of the blast
The midnight clouds are driven.
The brooklet raved, for on the hills
The upland showers had swoln the rills,
And down the torrents came;
Mutter'd the distant thunder dread,
And frequent o'er the vale was spread
A sheet of lightning flame.
DeVaux, within his mountain cave,
(No human step the storm durst brave)
To moody meditation gave
Each faculty of soul,
Till, lull'd by distant torrent sound,
And the sad winds that whistled round,
Upon his thoughts, in musing drown'd,
A broken slumber stole.
'Twas then was heard a heavy sound
(Sound strange and fearful there to hear,
'Mongst desert hills, where, leagues around,
Dwelt but the gorcock and the deer):
As, starting from his couch of fern,
Again he heard, in clangor stern,
That deep and solemn swell, --
Twelve times, in measured tone, it spoke,
Like some proud minster's pealing clock,
Or city's larum-bell, --
What thought was Roland's first when fell,
In that deep wilderness, the knell
Upon his startled ear?
To slander warrior were I loth,
Yet must I hold my minstrel troth, --
It was a thought of fear.
But lively was the mingled thrill
That chased that momentary chill,
For Love's keen wish was there,
And eager Hope, and Valour high,
And the proud glow of Chivalry,
That burn'd to do and dare.
Forth from the cave the warrior rush'd,
Long ere the mountain-voice was hush'd,
That answer'd to the knell;
For long and far the unwonted sound,
Eddying in echoes round and round,
Was toss'd from fell to fell;
And Glaramara answer flung,
And Grisdale-pike responsive rung,
And Legbert heights their echoes swung
As far as Derwent's dell.
Forth upon trackless darkness gazed
The Knight, bedeafen'd and amazed,
Till all was hush'd and still.
Save the swoln torrent's sullen roar,
And the night-blast that wildly bore
Its course along the hill.
Then on the northern sky there came
A light, as of reflected flame,
And over Legbert-head,
As if by magic art controll'd,
A mighty meteor slowly roll'd
Its orb of fiery red;
Thou wouldst have thought some demon dire
Came, mounted on that car of fire,
To do his errand dread.
Far on the sloping valley's course,
On thicket, rock, and torrent hoarse,
Shingle and Scrae, and Fell and Force,
A dusky light arose:
Display'd, yet alter'd was the scene;
Dark rock, and brook of silver sheen,
Even the gay thicket's summer green,
In bloody tincture glows.
De Vaux had mark'd the sunbeams set,
At eve, upon the coronet
Of that enchanted mound,
And seen but crags at random flung,
That, o'er the brawling torrent hung,
In desolation frown'd.
What sees he by that meteor's lour?
A banner'd Castle, keep, and tower,
Return the lurid gleam,
With battled walls and buttress fast,
And barbican and ballium vast,
And airy flanking towers, that cast
Their shadows on the stream.
'Tis no deceit! distinctly clear
Crenell and parapet appear,
While o'er the pile that meteor drear
Makes momentary pause;
Then forth its solemn path it drew,
And fainter yet and fainter grew
Those gloomy towers upon the view,
As its wild light withdraws.
Forth from the cave did Roland rush,
O'er crag and stream, through brier and bush;
Yet far he had not sped
Ere sunk was that portentous light
Behind the hills, and utter night
Was on the valley spread.
He paused perforce, and blew his horn,
And on the mountain-echoes borne
Was heard an answering sound,
A wild and lonely trumpet-note;
In middle air it seem'd to float
High o'er the battled mound;
And sounds were heard, as when a guard
Of some proud castle, holding ward,
Pace forth their nightly round.
The valiant Knight of Triermain
Rung forth his challenge-blast again,
But answer came there none;
And 'mid the mingled wind and rain,
Darkling he sought the vale in vain,
Until the dawning shone;
And when it dawn'd, that wondrous sight,
Distinctly seen by meteor light --
It all had pass'd away;
And that enchanted mount once more
A pile of granite fragments bore,
As at the close of day.
Steel'd for the dead, De Vaux's heart
Scorn'd from his vent'rous quest to part
He walks the vale once more;
But only sees, by night or day,
That shatter'd pile of rocks so grey,
Hears but the torrent's roar.
Till when, through hills of azure borne,
The moon renew'd her silver horn,
Just at the time her waning ray,
Had faded in the dawning day,
A summer mist arose;
Adown the vale the vapours float,
And cloudy undulations moat
That tufted mound of mystic note,
As round its base they close.
And higher now the fleecy tide
Ascends its stern and shaggy side,
Until the airy billows hide
The rock's majestic isle;
It seem'd a veil of filmy lawn,
By some fantastic fairy drawn
Around enchanted pile.
The breeze came softly down the brook,
And, sighing as it blew,
The veil of silver mist it shook,
And to De Vaux's eager look
Renew'd that wondrous view.
For, though the loitering vapour braved
The gentle breeze, yet oft it waved
Its mantle dewy fold;
And still, when shook that filmy screen,
Were towers and bastions dimly seen,
And Gothic battlements between
Their gloomy length unroll'd.
Speed, speed, De Vaux, ere on thine eye
Once more the fleeting vision die!
The gallant knight 'gan speed
As prompt and light as, when the hound
Is opening, and the horn is wound,
Careers the hunter's steed.
Down the steep dell his course amain
Hath rivall'd archer's shaft;
But ere the mound he could attain,
The rocks their shapeless form regain,
And, mocking loud his labour vain,
The mountain spirits laugh'd.
Far up the echoing dell was borne
Their wild unearthly shout of scorn.
Wroth wax'd the Warrior: 'Am I then
Fool'd by the enemies of men,
Like a poor hind, whose homeward way
Is haunted by malicious fay?
Is Triermain become your taunt,
De Vaux your scorn? False fiends, avaunt!'
A weighty curtal-axe he bare;
The baleful blade so bright and square,
And the tough shaft of heben wood,
Were oft in Scottish gore imbrued.
Backward his stately form he drew,
And at the rocks the weapon threw,
Just where one crag's projected crest
Hung proudly balanced o'er the rest.
Hurl'd with main force, the weapon's shock
Rent a huge fragment of the rock.
If by mere strength, 'twere hard to tell,
Or if the blow dissolved some spell,
But down the headlong ruin came,
With cloud of dust and flash of flame.
Down bank, o'er bush, its course was borne,
Crush'd lay the copse, the earth was torn,
Till staid at length, the ruin dread
Cumber'd the torrent's rocky bed,
And bade the water's high-swoln tide
Seek other passage for its pride.
When ceased that thunder, Triermain
Survey'd the mound's rude front again;
And, lo! the ruin had laid bare,
Hewn in the stone, a winding stair,
Whose moss'd and fractured steps might lend
The means the summit to ascend;
And by whose aid the brave De Vaux
Began to scale these magic rocks,
And soon a platform won,
Where, the wild witchery to close,
Within three lances' length arose
The Castle of Saint John!
No misty phantom of the air,
No meteor-blazoned show was there;
In morning splendour, full and fair,
The massive fortress shone.
Embattled high and proudly tower'd,
Shaded by pond'rous flankers, lower'd
The portal's gloomy way.
Though for six hundred years and more
Its strength had brook'd the tempest's roar,
The scutcheon'd emblems which it bore
Had suffer'd no decay:
But from the eastern battlement
A turret had made sheer descent,
And, down in recent ruin rent,
In the mid-torrent lay.
Else, o'er the Castle's brow sublime,
Insults of violence or of time
Unfelt had pass'd away.
In shapeless characters of yore,
The gate this stern inscription bore: --
'Patience waits the destined day,
Strength can clear the cumber'd way.
Warrior, who hast waited long,
Firm of soul, of sinew strong,
It is given to thee to gaze
On the pile of ancient days.
Never mortal builder's hand
This enduring fabric plann'd;
Sign and sigil, word of power,
From the earth raised keep and tower.
View it o'er, and pace it round,
Rampart, turret, battled mound.
Dare no more! To cross the gate
Were to tamper with thy fate;
Strength and fortitude were vain,
View it o'er -- and turn again.'
'That would I,' said the Warrior bold,
'If that my frame were bent and old,
And my thin blood dropp'd slow and cold
As icicle in thaw;
But while my heart can feel it dance,
Blithe as the sparkling wine of France,
And this good arm wields sword or lance,
I mock these words of awe!'
He said; the wicket felt the sway
Of his strong hand, and straight gave way,
And, with rude crash and jarring bray,
The rusty bolts withdraw;
But o'er the threshold as he strode,
And forward took the vaulted road,
An unseen arm, with force amain,
The ponderous gate flung close again,
And rusted bolt and bar
Spontaneous took their place once more,
While the deep arch with sullen roar
Return'd their surly jar.
'Now closed is the gin and the prey within
By the Rood of Lanercost!
But he that would win the war-wolf's skin
May rue him of his boast.'
Thus muttering, on the Warrior went,
By dubious light down deep descent.
Unbarr'd, unlock'd, unwatch'd, a port
Led to the Castle's outer court:
There the main fortress, broad and tall,
Spread its long range of bower and hall,
And towers of varied size,
Wrought with each ornament extreme
That Gothic art, in wildest dream
Of fancy, could devise;
But full between the Warrior's way
And the main portal arch, there lay
An inner moat;
Nor bridge nor boat
Affords De Vaux the means to cross
The clear, profound, and silent fosse.
His arms aside in haste he flings,
Cuirass of steel and hauberk rings,
And down falls helm, and down the shield,
Rough with the dints of many a field.
Fair was his manly form, and fair
His keen dark eye, and close curl'd hair,
When, all unarm'd, save that the brand
Of well-proved metal graced his hand,
With nought to fence his dauntless breast
But the close gipon's under-vest,
Whose sullied buff the sable stains
Of hauberk and of mail retains,
Roland De Vaux upon the brim
Of the broad moat stood prompt to swim.
Accoutred thus he dared the tide,
And soon he reach'd the farther side,
And enter'd soon the hold,
And paced a hall, whose wall so wide
Were blazon'd all with feats of pride,
By warriors done of old.
In middle lists they counter'd here,
While trumpets seem'd to blow;
And there, in den or desert drear'
They quell'd gigantic foe,
Braved the fierce griffon in his ire,
Or faced the dragon's breath of fire.
Strange in their arms, and strange in face,
Heroes they seem'd of ancient race,
Whose deeds of arms, and race, and name,
Forgotten long by later fame,
Were here depicted, to appal
Those of an age degenerate,
Whose bold intrusion braved their fate
In this enchanted hall.
For some short space the venturous knight
With these high marvels fed his sight,
Then sought the chamber's upper end,
Where three broad easy steps ascend
To an arch'd portal door,
In whose broad folding leaves of state
Was framed a wicket window-grate,
And, ere he ventured more,
The gallant Knight took earnest view
The grated wicket-window through.
Oh, for his arms! Of martial weed
Had never mortal Knight such need!
He spied a stately gallery; all
Of snow-white marble was the wall,
The vaulting, and the floor;
And, contrast strange! on either hand
There stood array'd in sable band
Four maids whom Afric bore;
And each a bright Lybian tiger led,
Held by as bright and frail a thread
As Lucy's golden hair, --
For the leash that bound these monsters dread
Was but of gossamèr.
Each maiden's short barbaric vest
Left all unclosed the knee and breast,
And limbs of shapely jet;
White was their vest and turban's fold,
On arms and ankles rings of gold
In savage pomp were set;
A quiver on their shoulders lay,
And in their hand an assagay.
Such and so silent stood they there,
That Roland wellnigh hoped
He saw a band of statues rare,
Station'd the gazer's soul to scare;
But when the wicket oped,
Each grisley beast 'gan upward draw,
Roll'd his grim eye, and spread his claw,
Scented the air, and licked his jaw;
While these weird maids, in Moorish tongue,
A wild and dismal warning sung.
'Rash adventurer, bear thee back!
Dread the spell of Dahomay!
Fear the race of Zaharak,
Daughters of the burning day!
'When the whirlwind's gusts are wheeling,
Ours it is the dance to braid;
Zarah's sands in pillars reeling
Join the measure that we tread,
When the moon has donn'd her cloak,
And the stars are red to see,
Shrill when pipes the sad siroc,
Music meet for such as we.
'Where the shatter'd columns lie,
Showing Carthage once had been,
If the wandering Santon's eye
Our mysterious rites hath seen, --
Oft he cons the prayer of death,
To the nations preaches doom,
"Azrael's brand hath left the sheath!
Moslems, think upon the tomb!"
'Ours the scorpion, ours the snake,
Our the hydra of the fen,
Ours the tiger of the brake,
All that plague the sons of men.
Ours the tempest's midnight wrack,
Pestilence that wastes by day:
Dread the race of Zaharak!
Fear the spell of Dahomay!'
Uncouth and strange the accents shrill
Rung those vaulted roofs among,
Long it was ere, faint and still,
Died the far-resounding song.
While yet the distant echoes roll,
The Warrior communed with his soul:
'When first I took this venturous quest,
I swore upon the rood,
Neither to stop, nor turn, nor rest,
For evil or for good.
My forward path too well I ween,
Lies yonder fearful ranks between!
For man unarm'd, 'tis bootless hope
With tigers and with fiends to cope;
Yet, if I turn, what waits me there,
Save famine dire and fell despair?
Other conclusion let me try,
Since, choose howe'er I list, I die.
Forward, lies faith and knightly fame;
Behind, are perjury and shame.
In life or death I hold my word!'
With that he drew his trusty sword,
Caught down a banner from the wall,
And enter'd thus the fearful hall.
On high each wayward maiden threw
Her swarthy arm, with wild halloo --
On either side a tiger sprung:
Against the leftward foe he flung
The ready banner, to engage
With tangling folds the brutal rage;
The right-hand monster in mid air
He struck so fiercely and so fair,
Through gullet and through spinal bone,
The trenchant blade had sheerly gone.
His grisly brethren ramp'd and yell'd,
But the slight leash their rage withheld,
Whilst, 'twixt their ranks, the dangerous road
Firmly, though swift, the champion strode.
Safe to the gallery's bound he drew,
Safe pass'd an open portal through;
And when against pursuit he flung
The gate, judge if echoes rung!
Onward his daring course he bore,
While, mix'd with dying growl and roar,
Wild jubilee and loud hurra
Pursued him on his venturous way.
'Hurra, hurra! our watch is done!
We hail once more the tropic sun,
Pallid beams of northern day,
Farewell, farewell! Hurra, hurra!
'Five hundred years o'er this cold glen
Hath the pale sun come round agen;
Foot of man, till now, hath ne'er
Dared to cross the Hall of Fear.
'Warrior! thou, whose dauntless heart
Gives us from our ward to part,
Be as strong in future trial,
Where resistance is denial.
'Now for Afric's glowing sky,
Zwenga wide and Atlas high,
Zaharak and Dahomay!
Mount the winds! Hurra, hurra!'
The wizard song at distance died,
As if in ether borne astray,
While through the waste halls and chambers wide,
The knight pursued his steady way,
Till to a lofty dome he came,
That flash'd, with such a brilliant flame,
As if the wealth of all the world
Were there in such confusion hurl'd.
For there the gold, in sandy heaps,
With duller earth, incorporate, sleeps;
Was there in ingots piled; and there
Coin'd badge of empery it bare;
Yonder, huge bars of silver lay,
Dimm'd by the diamond's neighbouring ray,
Like the pale moon in morning day;
And in the midst four maidens stand,
The daughters of some distant land.
Their hue was of the dark red dye,
That fringes oft a thunder sky;
Their hands palmetto baskets bare,
And cotton fillets bound their hair;
Slim was their form, their mien was shy,
To earth they bent the humbled eye,
Folded their arms, and suppliant kneel'd,
And thus their proffer'd gifts revealed.
'See the treasures Merlin piled,
Portion meet for Arthur's child.
Bathe in wealth's unbounded stream,
Wealth that avarice ne'er could dream!'
'See these clots of virgin gold!
Sever'd from the sparry mould,
Nature's mystic alchemy
In the mine thus bade them lie;
And their orient smile can win
Kings to stoop, and saints to sin.'
'See these pearls, that long have slept;
These were the tears by Naiads wept
For the loss of Marinel.
Tritons in the silver shell
Treasured them, till hard and white
As the teeth of Amphitrite."
'Does a livelier hue delight?
Here are rubies blazing bright,
Here are emerald's fairy green,
And the topaz glows between;
Here their varied hues unite,
In the changeful chrysolite.'
'Leave these gems of poorer shine,
Leave them all, and look on mine!
While their glories I expand,
Shade thine eyebrows with thy hand.
Mid-day sun and diamond's blaze
Blind the rash beholder's gaze.'
'Warrior, seize the splendid store;
Would 'twere all our mountains bore!
We should ne'er in future story
Read, Peru, thy perish'd glory!'
Calmly and unconcern'd, the knight
Waved aside the treasures bright: --
'Gentle maidens, rise, I pray!
Bar not thus my destined way.
Let these boasted brilliant toys
Braid the hair of girls and boys!
Bid your streams of gold expand
O'er proud London's thirsty land.
De Vaux of wealth saw never need,
Save to purvey him arms and steed,
And all the ore he deign'd to hoard
Inlays his helm, and hilts his sword.'
Thus gently parting from their hold,
He left, unmoved, the dome of gold.
And now the morning sun was high,
De Vaux was weary, faint, and dry;
When, lo! a plashing sound he hears,
A gladsome signal that he nears
Some frolic water-run;
And soon he reach'd a court-yard square,
Where, dancing in the sultry air,
Toss'd high aloft, fountain fair
Was sparkling in the sun.
On right and left, a fair arcade,
In long perspective view display'd
Alleys and bowers, for sun and shade:
But, full in front, a door,
Low-brow'd and dark, seem'd as it led
To the lone dwelling of the dead,
Whose memory was no more.
Here stopp'd De Vaux an instant's space,
To bathe his parched lips and face,
And mark'd with well-pleased eye,
Refracted on the fountain stream,
In rainbow's hues the dazzling beam
Of that gay summer sky.
His senses felt a mild control,
Like that which lulls the weary soul,
From contemplation high
Relaxing, when the ear receives
The music that the greenwood leaves
Make to the breezes' sigh.
And oft in such a dreamy mood,
The half-shut eye can frame
Fair apparitions in the wood
As if the nymphs of field and flood
In gay procession came.
Are these of such fantastic mould,
Seen distant down the fair arcade,
These maids enlink'd in sister-fold,
Who, late at bashful distance staid,
Now tripping from the greenwood shade,
Nearer the musing champion draw,
And, in a pause of seeming awe,
Again stand doubtful now?
Ah, that sly pause of witching powers
That seems to say, 'To please be ours,
Be yours to tell us how.'
Their hue was of the golden glow
That suns of Candahar bestow,
O'er which in slight suffusion flows
A frequent tinge of paly rose;
Their limbs were fashion'd fair and free,
In nature's justest symmetry;
And, wreathed with flowers, with odours graced,
Their raven ringlets reach'ed the waist:
In eastern pomp, its gilding pale
The hennah lent each shapely nail,
And the dark sumah gave the eye
More liquid and more lustrous dye.
The spotless veil of misty lawn,
In studied disarrangement, drawn
The form and bosom o'er,
To win the eye, or tempt the touch,
For modesty show'd all too much --
Too much, yet promised more.
'Gentle knight, a while delay,'
Thus they sung, 'thy toilsome way,
While we pay the duty due
To our Master and to you.
Over avarice, over fear,
Love triumphant led thee here;
Warrior, list to us, for we
Are slaves to love, are friends to thee.
Though no treasured gems have we,
To proffer on the bended knee,
Though we boast nor arm nor heart,
For the assagay or dart,
Swains allow each simple girl
Ruby lip and teeth of pearl;
Or, if dangers more you prize,
Flatters find them in our eyes.
'Stay, then, gentle warrior, stay,
Rest till evening steal on day;
Stay, O stay! in yonder bowers
We will braid thy locks with flowers,
Spread the feast and fill the wine,
Charm thy ear with sounds divine,
Weave our dances till delight
Yield to languor, day to night.
Then shall she you most approve,
Sing they lays that best you love,
Soft thy mossy couch shall spread,
Watch thy thy pillow, prop thy head,
Till the weary night be o'er;
Gentle warrior, wouldst thou more?
Wouldst thou more, fair warrior? She
Is slave to love and slave to thee.'
O do not hold it for a crime
In the bold hero of my rhyme,
For Stoic look,
And meet rebuke,
He lack'd the heart or time;
As round the band of sirens trip,
He kiss'd one damsel's laughing lip,
And press'd another's proffer'd hand.
Spoke to them all in accents bland,
But broke their magic circle through;
'Kind maids,' he said, 'adieu, adieu!
My fate, my fortune, forward lies.'
He said, and vanish'd from their eyes;
But, as he dared that darksome way,
Still heard behind their lovely lay:
'Fair Flowers of Courtesy, depart!
Go, where the feelings of the heart
With the warm pulse in concord move;
Go, where virtue sanctions love!'
Downward De Vaux through darksome ways
And ruin'd vaults has gone,
Till issue from their wilder'd maze,
Or safe retreat, seem'd none;
And e'en the dismal path he strays
Grew worse as he went on.
For cheerful sun, for living air,
Foul vapours rise and mine-fires glare,
Whose fearful light the dangers show'd
That dogg'd him on that dreadful road.
Deep pits, and lakes of waters dun,
They show'd, but show'd not how to shun.
These scenes of desolate despair,
These smothering clouds of poison'd air,
How gladly had De Vaux exchanged,
Though 'twere to face yon tigers ranged!
Nay, soothful bards have said
So perilous his state seem'd now,
He wish'd him under arbour bough
With Asia's willing maid.
When, joyful sound! at distance near
A trumpet flourish'd loud and clear,
And as it ceased, a lofty lay
Seem'd thus to chide his lagging way.
'Son of Honour, theme of story,
Think on the reward before ye!
Danger, darkness, toil despise;
'Tis ambition bids thee rise.
'He that would her heights ascend,
Many a weary step must wend;
Hand and foot and knee he tries;
Thus ambition's minions rise.
'Lag not now, though rough the way,
Fortune's mood brooks no delay;
Grasp the boon, that's spread before ye,
Monarch's power, and conqueror's glory!'
It ceased. Advancing on the sound,
A steep ascent the wanderer found,
And then a turret stair:
Nor climb'd he far its steepy round
Till fresher blew the air,
And next a welcome glimpse was given,
That cheer'd him with the light of heaven.
At length his toil had won
A lofty hall with trophies dress'd
Where, as to greet imperial guest,
Four maidens stood, whose crimson vest
Was bound with golden zone.
Of Europe seem'd the damsels all;
The first a nymph of lively Gaul,
Whose easy step and laughing eye
Her borrow'd air of awe belie;
The next a maid of Spain,
Dark-eyed, dark-hair'd, sedate, yet bold;
White ivory skin and tress of gold,
Her shy and bashful comrade told
For daughter of Almaine.
These maidens bore a royal robe,
With crown, with sceptre, and with globe,
Emblems of empery;
The fourth a space behind them stood,
And leant upon a harp, in mood
Of minstrel ecstasy.
Of merry England she, in dress
Like ancient British Druidess.
Her hair an azure fillet bound,
And, in her hand display'd
A crown that did that fourth maiden hold,
But unadorn'd with gems and gold,
Of glossy laurel made.
At once to brave De Vaux knelt down
These foremost maidens three,
And proffer'd sceptre, robe and crown,
Liegedom and seignorie,
O'er many a region wide and fair,
Destined, they said, for Arthur's heir;
But homage would he none:
'Rather,' he said, 'De Vaux would ride,
A warden of the Border-side,
In plate and mail, than, robed in pride,
A monarch's empire own;
Rather, far rather, would he be
A free-born knight in England free,
Than sit on despot's throne.'
So pass'd he on, when that fourth maid,
As starting from a trance,
Upon the harp her finger laid;
Her magic touch the chords obey'd,
Their soul awaked at once!
SONG OF THE FOURTH MAIDEN
'Quake to your foundations deep,
Stately towers, and banner'd keep,
Bid your vaulted echoes moan,
As the dreaded step they own.
'Fiends, that wait on Merlin's spell,
Hear the foot-fall! mark it well!
Spread your dusky wings abroad,
Boune ye for your homeward road!
'It is his, the first who e'er
Dared the dimal Hall of Fear;
His, who hath the snares defied
Spread by pleasure, wealth and pride.
'Quake to your foundations deep,
Bastion huge, and turret steep!
Tremble, keep! and totter, tower!
This is Gyneth's waking hour.'
Thus while she sung, the venturous knight
Has reach'd a bower, where milder light
Through crimson curtains fell;
Such soften'd shade the hill receives,
Her purple veil when twilight leaves
Upon its western swell.
That bower, the gazer to bewitch,
Hath wondrous store of rare and rich
As e'er was seen with eye;
For there with magic skill, I wis,
Form of each thing that living is
Was limn'd in proper dye.
All seem'd to sleep -- the timid hare
On form, the stag upon his lair,
The eagle in her eyrie fair
Between the earth and sky.
But what of pictured rich and rare
Could win De Vaux's eye-glance, where,
Deep slumbering in the fatal chair,
He saw King Arthur's child!
Doubt, and anger, and dismay,
From her brow had pass'd away,
Forgot was that fell tourney-day,
For, as she slept, she smiled:
It seem'd, that the repentant Seer
Her sleep of many a hundred year
With gentle dreams beguiled.
That form of maiden loveliness,
'Twixt childhood and 'twixt youth,
That ivory chair, that silvan dress,
The arms and ankles bare, express
Of Lyulph's tale the truth.
Still upon her garment's hem
Vanoc's blood made purple gem,
And the warder of command
Cumber'd still her sleeping hand;
Still her dark locks dishevell'd flow
From net of pearl o'er breast of snow;
And so fair the slumberer seems,
That De Vaux impeach'd his dreams,
Vapid all and void of might,
Hiding half her charms from sight.
Motionless a while he stands,
Folds his arms and clasps his hands,
Trembling in his fitful joy,
Doubtful how he should destroy
Doubtful, too, when slowly rise
Dark-fringed lids of Gyneth's eyes,
What these eyes shall tell.
'Saint George! Saint Mary! can it be,
That they will kindly look on me!'
Gently, lo! the warrior kneels,
Soft that lovely hand he steals.
Soft to kiss, and soft to clasp --
But the warder leaves his grasp;
Lightning flashes, rolls the thunder!
Gyneth startles from her sleep,
Totters tower, and trembles keep,
Burst the castle-walls asunder!
Fierce and frequent were the shocks, --
Melt the magic halls away;
But beneath their mystic rocks,
In the arms of bold De Vaux,
Safe the princess lay;
Safe and free from magic power,
Blushing like the rose's flower
Opening to the day;
And round the champion's brow's were bound
The crown that Druidess had wound,
Of the green laurel-bay.
And this was what remain'd of all
The wealth of each enchanted hall,
The garland and the dame:
But where should warrior seek the meed,
Due to high worth for daring deed,
Except from love and fame!
My Lucy,, when the maid is won,
The minstrel's task, thou know'st, is done.
And to require of bard
That to his dregs the tale should run,
Were ordinance too hard.
Our lovers, briefly be it said,
Wedded as lovers wont to wed,
When tale or play is o'er;
Lived long and blest, loved fond and true,
And saw a numerous race renew
The honours that they bore.
Know, too, that when a pilgrim strays,
In morning mist or evening maze,
Along the mountain lone,
That fairy fortress often mocks
His gaze upon the castled rocks
Of the Valley of Saint John;
But never man since brave De Vaux
The charmed portal won.
'Tis now a vain illusive show,
That melts whene'er the sunbeams glow
Or the fresh breeze hath blown.
But see, my love, where far below
Our lingering wheels are moving slow,
The whiles, up-gazing still,
Our menials eye our steepy way,
Marvelling, perchance, what whim can stay
Our steps, when eve is sinking grey,
On this gigantic hill.
So think the vulgar: Life and time
Ring all their joys in one dull chime
Of luxury and ease;
And, O! beside these simple knaves,
How many better born are slaves
To such coarse joys as these!
Dead to nobler sense that glows
When nature's grander scenes unclose!
But, Lucy, we will love them yet,
The mountain's misty coronet,
The greenwood, and the wold;
And love the more that of their maze
Adventure high of other days
By ancient bards is told,
Bringing, perchance, like my poor tale,
Some moral truth in fiction's veil:
Nor love them less, that o'er the hill
The evening breeze, as now, comes chill; --
My love shall wrap her warm,
And, fearless of the slippery way
While safe she trips the heathy brae,
Shall hang on Arthur's arm.
Next: Vivien, by Alan Seeger