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dower's companion, who suggested for the place of sepulture
A broad and blasted oak,
Scorched by the lightning's vivid glare,
And all its shrivelled arms were bare.
Be this, I cried, the proper grave
(The thought in me was deadly sin): Aloft we raised the hapless chief,
And dropped his bleeding corpse within.
After this dire catastrophe Glendower returned in haste to his stronghold, without, of course, giving any information to the Lord of Nannau's people. Howel was sought for in every direction, but was nowhere to be found. His alarmed retainers hunted through all the recesses of the neighbouring forest, the while his sorrowing wife shut herself up from all comfort in the solitude of her gloomy castle. The years passed by, and no tidings reached Nannau of the missing lord :
Yet Fancy, in a thousand shapes,
Bore to his home the chief once more;
Some saw him on the winding shore.
With wonder fraught, the tale went round,
Amazement chained the hearer's tongue;
Yet fondly o'er the story hung.
Oft by the moon's pale shadowy light,
His aged nurse, and steward gray,
Or mark the flitting spirit stray.
Pale lights on Cader's rocks were seen,
And midnight voices heard to moan ; 'Twas even said the Blasted Oak,
Convulsive, heaved a hollow groan.
But still the fate of Howel Sele remained unknown to everyone save Glendower and his companion Madog. At last, after ten years of silence, Glendower died, and the partaker of the chieftain's secret was at liberty to reveal the mystery; his lord's last words being :
To Sele's sad widow bear the tale,
Nor let our horrid secret rest :
Then may my parting soul be blest.
Madog hastened to obey his prince's last behest, and,
saddened home, and told the horrified and long-hoping wife that she was a widow indeed. The revelation was rapidly noised abroad among the retainers, and confirmation of it demanded; Madog led them to the blasted oak, which was hastily rent open, and the bleaching skeleton exposed to view :
Back they recoiled—the right hand still,
Contracted, grasped the rusty sword;
And proudly decked their slaughtered lord.
They bore the corse to Vanner's shrine,
With holy rites and prayers address'd;
And gave the angry spirit rest.
But notwithstanding the burial rites were read, and many masses said for their dead lord, his spirit was not believed to be at rest, and almost down to the present day the fearsome peasant has dreaded to pass at night by the blasted oak, “the hollow oak of the demons." Until its fall and destruction on the 13th of July 1813, the haunted tree was an object of nocturnal dread, and the poet could truly say:
And to this day the peasant still
With fear avoids the ground;
And trembles at each rising sound.
LIKE SO many old baronial residences, Newstead has the reputation of being haunted, and that by more than one spectre. But the name and fame of the last of the Byrons of Newstead has over-clouded and obscured all previous tenants, mortal or otherwise, and fung a pall of poetic melancholy over the whole domain that no spiritual apparitions can survive. The legends connected with Newstead are many, and descend from that mysterious maid of Saracen birth or residence, whose form and features are so frequently repeated in the ancient panel-work of the Abbey's interior, down to Lord Byron's immediate predecessor in the title and estates. “Devil Byron,” as this man was called, among other wild tales connected with his name, was said to be haunted by the spirit of a sister, whom he refused to speak to for years preceding her death, in consequence of a family scandal, notwithstanding her heart-rending appeals of “Speak to me, my lord! Do speak to me!” Ebenezer Elliott, in a ballad he wrote on this legend, introduces the apparitions of both “Devil Byron ” and his sister as riding forth together in foul weather, the lady still making passionate appeals to the immovable brother to speak to her :
Well sleep the dead : in holy ground
Well sleeps the heart of iron;
What cares it for Byron ?
They ride and drive together ;
Wilful is the weather.
On mighty winds, in spectre coach,
Fast speeds the heart of iron;
Side by side with Byron.
Oh, Night doth love her! Oh, the clouds
They do her form environ!
“ Speak to me, Lord Byron!”
• On winds, on clouds, they ride, they drive,
Oh, hark, thou heart of iron! The thunder whispers mournfully, “Speak to her, Lord Byron ! "
Another family apparition which is said to have
haunted the old Abbey, was that of “ Sir John Byron the Little, with the Great Beard.” An ancient portrait of this mysterious ancestor, some few years since, was still hanging over the door of the great saloon, and was said to sometimes descend at midnight from its sombre frame, and promenade the state apartments. Indeed, this ancient worthy's visitations were not confined to night only; one young lady, on a visit to the Abbey some years ago, positively asserting that in broad daylight, the room of his chamber being open, she saw Sir John the Little sitting by the fire-place, and reading out of an old-fashioned book.
Many other apparitions have been seen about this ancient time-honoured building, and Washington Irving mentions that a young lady, Lord Byron's cousin, when she was staying at the Abbey, slept in the room next the clock, and that one night, when she was in bed, she saw a lady in white come out of the wall on one side of the room and go into the wall on the other side. Many curious noises and strange sights have been heard and seen by residents and visitors at Newstead; but the best known and most noted spectre connected with the place, and immortalised by Byron's verse, is the “Goblin Friar.” The particular chamber that this spectre is supposed to especially 'frequent, and which is known par excellence, as "the Haunted Chamber,” adjoins Byron's bed-room. During the poet's residence this dismallooking room was occupied by his page, a beautiful boy, whom the scandal-loving female servants would have was a girl.