Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

Alas, alas! said Geraldine,
I cannot speak for weariness.
So free from danger, free from fear,
They crossed the court: right glad they

were.

(For I have lain entranced I wis)
Since one, the tallest of the five,
Took me from the palfrey's back,
A weary woman, scarce alive.
Some muttered words his comrades

spoke :
He placed me underneath this oak;
He swore they would return with haste;
Whither they went I cannot tell-
I thought I heard, some minutes past,
Sounds as of a castle bell.
Stretch forth thy land (thus ended she),
And help a wretched maid to flee.
Then Christabel stretched forth her

hand, And comforted fair Geraldine : O well, bright dame! may you command The service of Sir Leoline; And gladly our stout chivalry Will he send forth and friends withal To guide and guard you safe and free Home to your noble father's hall. She rose : and forth with steps they

passed That strove to be, and were not, fast. Her gracious stars the lady blest, And thus spake on sweet Christabel : All our household are at rest The hall as silent as the cell; Sir Leoline is weak in health, And may not well awakened be, But we will move as if in stealth, And I beseech your courtesy, This night, to share your couch with me. They crossed the moat, and Christabel Took the key that fitted well; A little door she opened straight, All in the middle of the gate; The gate that was ironed within and

without, Where an army in battle array had

marched out. The lady sank, belike through pain, And Christabel with might and main Lifted her up, a weary weight, Over the threshold of the gate : Then the lady rose again, And moved, as she were not in pain. So free from danger, free from fear, They crossed the court; right glad they

Outside her kennel, the mastiff old
Lay fast asleep, in moonshine cold.
The mastiff old did not awake,
Yet she an angry moan did make!
And what can ail the mastiff bitch ?
Never till now she uttered yell
Beneath the eye of Christabel.
Perhaps it is the owlet's scritch:
For what can ail the mastiff bitch ?
They passed the hall, that echoes still,
Pass as lightly as you will !
The brands were flat, the brands were

dying,
Amid their own white ashes lying;
But when the lady passed, there came
A tongue of light, a fit of flame;
And Christabil saw the lady's eye,
And nothing else saw she thereby,
Save the boss of the shield of Sir Leoline

tall, Which hung in a murky old niche in the

wall. softly tread, said Christabel, My father seldom sleepetlı well. Sweet Christabel her feet doth bare, And jealous of the listening air They steal their way from stair to stair Now in glimmer, and now in gloom, And now they pass the Baron's room, As still as death, with stifled breath ! And now have reached her chamber

door ;
And now doth Geraldine press down
The rushes of the chamber floor.
The moon shines dim in the open air,
And not a moonbeam enters here.
But they without its light can see
The chamber carved so curiously,
Carved with figures strange and sweet,
All made out of the carver's brain,
For a lady's chamber meet;
The lamp with twofold silver chain
Is fastened to an angel's feet.
The silver lamp burns dead and dim;
But Christabel the lamp will trim.
She trimmed the lamp, and made it

bright,
And left it swinging to and fro,
While Geraldine, in wretched plight,
Sank down upon the floor below.

were.

And Christabel devoutly cried
To the lady by her side,
Praise we the Virgin all divine
Who hath rescued thee from thy dis-

tress!

O weary lady, Geraldine,
I pray you, drink this cordial wine!
It is a wine of virtuous powers ;
My mother made it of wild flowers.

That vain it were her lids to close ;
So half-way from the bed she rose,
And on her elbow did recline
To look at the lady Geraldine.

Beneath the lamp the lady bowed,
And slowly rolled her eyes around;
Then drawing in her breath aloud,
Like one that shuddered, she unbound
The cincture from beneath her breast:
Her silken robe, and inner vest,
Dropt to her feet, and full in view,
Behold ! her

bosom and half her sideA sight to dream of, not to tell ! O shield her! shield sweet Christabel !

a

[ocr errors]

And will your mother pity me,
Who am å maiden most forlorn ?
Christabel answered-Woe is me!
She died the hour that I was born.
I have heard the gray-haired friar tell
How on her death-bed she did say,
That she should hear the castle-bell
Strike twelve upon my wedding-day.
O mother dear! that thou wert here !
I would, said Geraldine, she were !
But soon with altered voice, said she-
“Off, wandering mother! Peak and

pine!
I have power to bid thee flee."
Alas ! what ails poor Geraldine ?
Why stares she with unsettled eye ?
Can she the bodiless dead espy ?
And why with hollow voice cries she,
"Off, woman, off! this hour is mine-
Though thou her guardian spirit be,
Off, woman, off ! 'tis given to me."
Then Christabel knelt by the lady's side,
And raised to heaven her eyes so blue-
“ Alas !” said she, “this ghastly ride-
Dear lady! it hath wildered you!”
The lady wiped her moist cold brow,
And faintly said, 'tis over now !”
Again the wild-fower wine she drank:
ller fair large eyes 'gan glitter bright,
And from the floor whereon she sank,
The lofty lady stood upright :
She was most beautiful to see,
Like a lady of a far countrée.
And thus the lofty lady spake-
“ All they who live in the upper sky,
Do love you, holy Christabel!
And you love them, and for their sake
And for the good which me befel,
Even Iin my degree will try,
Fair maiden, to requite you well.
But now unrobe yourself; for I
Must pray, ere yet in bed I lie.”
Quoth Christabel, So let it be!
And as the lady bade, did she.
Her gentle limbs did she undress,
And lay down in her loveliness.
But through her brain of weal and woe
So many thoughts moved to and fro,

Yet Geraldine nor speaks nor stirs ;
Ah! what a stricken look was hers!
Deep from within she seems half-way
To lift some weight with sick assay,
And eyes the maid and seeks delay ;
Then suddenly, as one defied,
Collects herself in scorn and pride,
And lay down by the Maiden's side !
And in her arms the maid she took,

Ah wel-a-day!
And with low voice and doleful look
These words did say:
"In the touch of this bosom there

worketh a spell, Which is lord of thy utterance, Christa

bel! Thou knowest tv-night, and wilt know

to-morrow, This mark of my shame, this seal of my

sorrow;
But vainly thou warrest,

For this is alone in
Thy power to declare,

That in the dim forest

Thou heard'st a low moaning, And found'st a bright lady, surpassingly

fair: And didst bring her home with thee in

love and in charity, To shield her and shelter her from the

damp air,”

THE CONCLUSION TO PART THE FIRST

It was a lovely sight to see
The lady Christabel, when she
Was praying at the old oak tree.

Amid the jagged shadows
Of mossy leafless boughs,
Kneeling in the moonlight,
To make her gentle vows;

PART THE SECOND

Her slender palms together prest,
Heaving sometimes on her breast;
Her face resigned to bliss or bale--
Her face, oh call it fair not pale.
And both blue eyes more bright than

clear,
Each about to have a tear.

With open eyes (ah woe is me!)
Asleep, and dreaming fearfully,
Fearfully dreaming, yet, I wis,
Dreaming that alone, which is--
O sorrow and shame! Can this be she,
The lady, who knelt at the old oak

tree?
And lo! the worker of these harms,
That holds the maiden in her arms,
Seems to slumber still and mild,
As a mother with her child.

Each matin bell, the Baron saith,
Knells us back to a world of death.
These words Sir Leoline first said,
When he rose and found his lady dead:
These words Sir Leoline will say
Many a morn to his dying day !
And hence the custom and law began
That still at dawn the sacristan,
Who duly pulls the heavy bell,
Five and forty beads must tell
Between each stroke-a warning knell,
Which not a soul can choose but hear
From Bratla Head to Wyndermere.

A star hath set, a star hath risen,
( Geraldine! since arms of thino
Have been the lovely lady's prison.
O Geraldine ! one hour was thine-
Thou'st had thy will! By tairn and

rill,
The night-birds all that hour were still,
But now they are jubilant anew,
From cliff and tower, tu--whoo! tu-

whoo! Tu-whoo! tu-whoo ! from wood and

fell !

And see! the lady Christabel
Gathers herself from out her trance ;
Her limbs relax, her countenance
Grows sad and soft; the smooth thin

lids
Close o'er her eyes! and tears she sheds-
Large tears that leave the lashes bright!
And oft the while she seems to smile
As infants at a sudden light!

Saith Bracy the bard, So let it knell !
And let the drowsy sacristan
Still count as slowly as he can !
There is no lack of such, I ween,
As well fill up the space between.
In Langdale Pike and Witch's Lair,
And Dungeon.ghyll so foully rent,
With ropes of rock and bells of air
Three sinful sextons' ghosts are pent,
Who all give back, one after t'other,
The death-note to their living brother ;
And oft too, by the knell offended,
Just as their one! two! three ! is ended
The devil mocks the doleful tale
With a merry peal from Borrowdale.
The air is still ! through mist and cloud
That merry peal comes ringing loud ;
And Geraldine shakes off her dread,
And rises lightly from the bed ;
Puts on her silken vestments white,
And tricks her hair in lovely plight,
And nothing doubting of her spell
Awakens the lady Christabel.
“ Sleep you, sweet lady Christabel ?
I trust that you have rested well."
And Christabel awoke and spied
The same who lay down by her side
O rather say, the same whom she
Raised up beneath the old oak tree !
Nay, fairer yet! and yet more fair!
For she belike hath drunken deep
Of all the blessedness of sleep !
And while she spake, her looks, her air,
Such gentle thankfulness declare,
That (so it seemel) her girded vests
Grew tight beneath her heaving breasts.
“Sure I have sinn'd!” said Christabel,
“Now heaven be praised if all be well!"
And in long faltering tones, yet sweet,
Did she the lofty lady greet

Yea, she doth smile, and she doth

weep, Like a youthful hermitess, Beauteous in a wilderness, Who, praying always, prays in sleep. And, if she move unquietly, Perchance, 'tis but the blood so free Comes back and tingles in her feet. No doubt, she bath a vision sweet. What if lier guardian spirit 'twere, What if she knew her mother near? But this she knows, in joys and woes, That saints will aid if men will call: For the blue sky bends over all !

1797. 1816.

With such perplexity of mind
As dreams too lively leave behind.
So quickly she rose, and quickly arrayed
Her maiden limbs, and having prayed
That He, who on the cross did groan,
Might wash away her sins unknown,
She forthwith led fair Geraldine
To meet her sire, Sir Leoline.

With trump and solemn heraldry,
That they, who thus had wronged the

dame
Were base as spo ted infamy!
" And if they dare deny the same,
My herald shall appoint a week,
And let the recreant traitors seek
My tourney court—that there and then
I may dislodge their reptile souls
From the bodies and forms of men !”
He spake: bis eye in lightning rolls !
For the lady was ruthlessly seized ; and

he kenned In the beautiful lady the child of his

friend!

The lovely maid and the lady tall
Are pacing both into the hall,
And pacing on through page and groom,
Enter the Baron's presence-room.
The Baron rose, and while he prest
His gentle daughter to his breast,
With cheerful wonder in his eyes
The lady Geraldine espies,
And gave such welcome to the same,
As might beseem so bright a dame !

[ocr errors]

But when he heard the lady's tale,
And when she told her father's name,
Why waxed Sir Leoline so pale,
Murmuring o'er the name again,
Lord Roland de Vaux of Tryermaine ?
Alas! they had been friends in youth ;
But whispering tongues can poison

truth ;
And constancy lives in realms above ;
And life is thorny; and youth is vain ;
And to be wroth with one we love
Doth work like madness in the brain.
And thus it chanced, as I divine,
With Roland and Sir Leoline.
Each spake words of high disdain
And insult to his heart's best brother:
They parted-ne'er to meet again!
But never either found another
To free the bollow heart from pain-

ingThey stood aloof, the scars remaining, Like cliffs which had been rent asunder; A dreary sea now flows between. But neither heat, nor frost, nor thunder, Shall wholly do away, I ween, The marks of that which once hath been.

And now the tears were on his face,
And fondly in his arms he took
Fair Geraldine, who met the embrace,
Prolonging it with joyous look.
Which when she viewed, a vision fell
Upon the soul of Christabel,
The vision of fear, the touch and pain !
She shrunk and shuddered, and saw

again, (Ah, woe is me! Was it for thee, Ìhou gentle maid ! such sights to see ?) Again she saw that bosom old, Again she felt that bosom cold, And drew in her breath with a hissing

sound: Whereat the Knight turned wildly

round, And nothing saw, but his own sweet

maid With eyes upraised, as one that prayed. The touch, the sight, had passed away, And in its stead that vision blest, Which comforted her after-rest, While in the lady's arms she lay, Had put a rapture in her breast, And on her lips and o'er her eyes Spread smiles like light!

With new surprise, What ails then my beloved child?" The Baron said.--His daughter mild Made answer, “ All will yet be well ! " I ween, she had no power to tell Auglt else: so mighty was the spell. Yet he, who saw this Geraldine, Had deemed her sure a thing divine. Such

with such grace she blended, As if she feared she had offended Sweet Christabel, that gentle maid ! And with such lowly tones she prayed She might be sent without delay

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Sir Leoline, a moment's s space,
Stood gazing on the damsel's face ;
And the youthful Lord of Tryermaine
Came back upon his heart again.
O then the Baron forgot his age,
His noble heart swelled high with rage;
He swore by the wounds in Jesu's side
He would proclaim it far and wide,

[blocks in formation]

66

Home to her father's mansion.

Nay ! Nay, by my soul!" said Leoline. Ho! Bracy the bard, the charge be

thine! Go thou, with music sweet and loud, And take two steeds with trappings

proud, And take the youth whom thou lov'st best To bear thy harp, and learn thy song, And clothe you both in solemn vest, And over the mountains haste along, Lest wandering folk, that are abroad, Detain you on the valley road, And when he has crossed the Irthing

flood, My merry bard! he hastes, he lastes Up Knorren Moor, through Halegarth

Wood, And reaches soon that castle good Which stands and threatens Scotland's

wastes. Bard Bracy! bard Bracy! your horses

are fleet, Ye must ride up the hall, your music so

sweet, More loud than your horses' echoing feet! And loud and loud to Lord Roland call, Thy daughter is safe in Langdale hall! Thy beautiful daughter is safe and freeSir Leoline greets thee thus through me. He bids thee come without delay With all thy numerous array ; And take thy lovely daughter home: And he will meet thee on the way With all his numerous array White with their panting palfreys' foam : And, by mine honor! I will say, That I repent me of the day When I spake words of fierce disdain To Roland de Vaux of Tryermaine ! -For since that evil hour hath flown, Many a summer's sun hath shone ; Yet ne'er found I a friend again Like Roland de Vaux of Tryermaine."

“And in my dream, methought, I went
To search out what might there be found;
And what the sweet bird's trouble meant,
That thus lay fluttering on the ground.
I went and peered, and could descry
No cause for her distressful cry;
But yet for her dear lady's sake
I stooped, methought, the dove to take,
When lo ! I saw a bright green suake
Coiled around its wings and neck.
Green as the herbs on which it couched,
Close by the dove's its head it crouched:
And with the dove it heaves and stirs,
Swelling its neck as she swelled hers!
I woke ; it was the midnight hour,
The clock was echoing in the tower ;
But though my slumber was gone by,
This dream it would not pass away-
It seems to live upon my eye!
And thence I vowed this self-same day
With music strong and saintly song
To wander through the forest bare,
Lest aught unholy loiter there.”
Thus Bracy said: the Baron, the while,
Half-listening heard him with a smile;
Then turned to Lady Geraldine,
His eyes made up of wonder and love ;
And said in courtly accents fine,
“Sweet maid, Lord Roland's beauteous

dove, With arms more strong than harp of

song, Thy sire and I will crush the snake !" He kissed her forehead as he spake, And Geraldine in maiden wise Casting down her large bright eyes, With blushing cheek and courtesy fine She turned her from Sir Leoline; Softly gathering up her train, That o'er her right arm fell again; And folded her arms across her chest, And couched her head upon her breast, And looked askance at ChristabelJesu, Maria, shield her well!

The lady fell, and clasped his knees,
Her face upraised, her eyes o'erflowing;
And Bracy replied, with faltering voice,
His gracious hail on all bestowing;
“Thy words, thou sire of Christabel,
Are sweeter than my harp can tell;
Yet might I gain a boon of thee,
This day my journey should not be,
So strange a dream hath come to me :
That I had vowed with music loud
To clear yon wood from thing unblest,
Warn'd by a vision in my rest!

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »