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The scene of this poem is laid at Rokeby, near Greta
Bridge, in Yorkshire, and shifs to the adjacent fortress of
Barnard Castle, and to other places in that vicinity.
The time occupied by the action is a space of five days,
three of which are supposed to elapse between the end of
the Fifth and beginning of the Sixth Canto.
The date of the supposed events is inmediately suh. sequent to the great battle of Marston Moor, 3rd July, 1644. This period of public confusion has been chosen, without any purpose of combining the Fable with tho Military or Political events of the Civil War, but only as affording a degree of probability to the fictitious narrative 30w presented to the Public.
NE Moon is in her summer glow,
But hoarse and high the breezes blow,
And, racking o'er her face, the cloud
Varies the tincture of her shroud;
On Barnard's towers, and Tees's strean,
She changes as a guilty dream,
When Conscience, with remorse and fears
Goads sleeping Fancy's wild career.
Her light seems now the blush of shame
Seems now fierce anger's darker flamo,
Shifting that shade, to come and go
Like apprehension's hurried glow;
Then sorrow's livery dims the air,
And dies in darkness, like despair.
Such varied hues the warder sees
Reflected from the woodland Tees,
Then from old Baliol's tower looks forth,
Sees the clouds mustering in the north,
Hears, upon turret-roof and wall,
By fits the plashing rain-drop fall,
Lists to the breeze's boding sound,
And wraps his shaggy mantle round
Those towers, which in the changeful glearen
Throw murky shadows on the stream
Those towers of Barnard hold a guest,
The emotions of whose troubl’d breast
In wild and strange confusion driven,
Rival the flitting rack of heaven,
Ere sleep stern OswALD's senses tied,
Oft had he changed his weary side,
Compos'd his limbs and vainly sought
By effort strong to banish thought.
Sleep came at length, but with a train
Of feelings true and fancies vain,
Mingling, in wild disorder cast,
The expected future with the past.
Conscience, anticipating time,
Already rues the enacted crime,
And calls her furies forth, to shake
The sounding scourge and hissing snake;
While her poor victim's outward throes
Bear witness to his mental woes,
And show what lesson may be read
Beside a sinner's restless bed.
Thus Oswald's labouring feelings trace
Strange changes in his sleeping face,
Rapid and ominous as these
With which the moonbeams tinge the Tees
There might be seen of shame the blush,
There anger's dark and fiercer flush,
While the perturbed sleeper's hand
Seem'd grasping dagger-knite, or brand.
Relax'd that grasp, the heavy sigh,
The tear in the half opening eye,
The pallid cheek and brow confess'd
That grief was busy in his breast;
Nor paus'd that mooda sudden start
Impellid the life-blood from the heart:
Features convuls'd, and mutterings dread,
Show terror reigns in sorrow's stead.
That pang the painful slumber broke,
And Oswald with a start awoke.
He woke to watch the lamp, and tell
From hour to hour the castle-bell
Or listen to the owlet's cry,
Or the sad breeze that whistles by,
Or catch, by fits, the tuneless rhyme
With which the warder cheats the tirne,
And envying think, how, when the sun
Bids the poor soldier's watch be done,
Couchid on his straw, and fancy-free,
He sleeps like careless infancy.
Far town-ward sounds a distant trcad,
And Oswald, starting from his bed,
Hath caught it, though no human ear,
Unsharpen'd by revenge and fear,
Could e'er distinguish horse's clank,
Until it reach'd the castle bank.
Now nigh and plain the sound appears,
The warder's challenge now he hears,
Then clanking chains and levers tell,
That o'er the moat the drawbridge fell,
And, in the castle court below,
Voices are heard, and torches glow,
As marshalling the stranger's way,
Straight for the room where Oswald lay,
The cry was “ Tidings from the host,
Of weight-a messenger comes post."
Stifling the tumult of his breast,
His answer Oswald thus express'd-
“ Bring food and wine, and trim the firez
Admit the stranger and retire."
The stranger came with heavy stride,
The morion's plumes his visage hide,
And the buff-coat, an ample fold,
Mantles his form's gigantic mould.
Full slender answer deigned he
To Oswald's anxious courtesy,
But mark'd, by a disdainful smile,
He saw and scorn'd the petty wile,
When Oswald chang'd the toreh's place
Anxious that on the soldier's face
Its partial lustre might be thrown,
To show his looks, yet hide his own.
His guest, the while, laid low aside
The ponderous cloak of tough bull's hide,
And to the torch glanc'd broad and clear
The corslet of a cuirassier;
Then from his brows the casque he drew;
And from the dank plume dash'd the dew,
From gloves of mail reliev'd his hands,
And spread them to the kindling brands
And, turning to the genial board,
Without a health, or pledge, or word
Of meet and social reverence said,
Deeply he drank, and fiercely fed;
As free from ceremony's sway,
As famish'd wolf that tears his preys
With deep impatience, tinged with fear,
His host beheld him gorge his cheer,
And quaff the full carouse, that lent
His brow a fiercer hardimento
Now Oswald stood a space aside,
Now pac'd the room with basty stride,
In feverish agony to learn
Tidings of deep and dread concern,
Cursing each moment that his guest
Protracted o'er his ruffian feast.
Yet viewing with alarm, at last,
The end of that uncouth repast,
Almost he seem'd their haste to run
As, at his sign, his train withdrew,
And left him with the stranger, fros
To question of his mystery.
Then did his silence long
proclaim A struggle between fear and shame.
Much in the stranger's mien appear,
To justify suspicious fears.
On his dark face a scorching clime,
A toil, had done the work of timo,