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I. The breeze, which swept away the smoke, Round Norham Castle rolled; When all the loud artillery spoke, With lightning-flash, and thunder-stroke, As Marmion left the Hold. It curled not Tweed alone, that breeze; For, far upon Northumbrian seas, It freshly blew, and strong, Where, from high Whitby's cloistered pile, Bound to Saint Cuthbert's Holy Isle, It bore a bark along. Upon the gale she stooped her side, And bounded o'er the swelling tide, As she were dancing home; The merry seamen laughed, to see Their gallant ship so lustily Furrow the green sea-foam.
Much joyed they in their honoured freight;
II. ‘Twas sweet to see these holy maids, Like birds escaped to green-wood shades, Their first flight from the cage, How timid, and how curious too, For all to them was strange and new, And all the common sights they view, Their wonderment engage. One eyed the shrouds and swelling sail, With many a benedicite; One at the rippling surge grew pale, And would for terror pray; Then shrieked, because the sea-dog, migh, His round black head, and sparkling eye, Reared o'er the foaming spray; And one would still adjust her veil, Disordered by the summer gale, Perchance lest some more worldly eye Her dedicated charms might spy; Perchance, because such action graced Her fair-turned arm and slender waist. Light was each simple bosom there, Save two, who ill might pleasure share, *The Abbess, and the Novice Clare.
III. The Abbess was of noble blood, But early took the veil and hood, Ere upon life she cast a look, Or knew the world that she forsook. Fair too she was, and kind had been As she was fair, but ne'er had seen For her a timid lover sigh, Nor knew the influence of her eye; Love, to her ear, was but a name, Combined with vanity and shame; Her hopes, her fears, her joys, were all Bounded within the cloister wall: The deadliestsin her mind could reach, Was of monastic rule the breach; And her ambition's highest aim, To emulate Saint Hilda's fame. For this she gave her ample dower, To raise the convent's eastern tower; For this, with carving rare and quaint, She decked the chapel of the saint; And gave the relique-shrine of cost, With ivory and gems embost. The poor her convent's bounty blest, The pilgrim in its halls found rest.
Her cheek was pale, her form was spare:
VII. Lovely, and gentle, and distressed— These charms might tame the fiercest breast: Harpers have sung, and poets told, That he, in fury uncontrolled, The shaggy monarch of the wood, Before a virgin, fair and good, Hath pacified his savage mood. But passions in the human frame Oft put the lion's rage to shame; Andjealousy, by dark intrigue, With sordidavarice in league, Had practised, with their bowl and knife, Against the mourner's harmless life.