A Pastoral Romance
From the Ancient British
By WILLIAM GODWIN
[By WILLIAM GODWIN]
The following performance, as the title imports, was originally composed in the Welch language. Its style is elegant and pure. And if the translator has not, as many of his brethren have done, suffered the spirit of the original totally to evaporate, he apprehends it will be found to contain much novelty of conception, much classical taste, and great spirit and beauty in the execution. It appears under the name of Cadwallo, an ancient bard, who probably lived at least one hundred years before the commencement of our common era. The manners of the primitive times seem to be perfectly understood by the author, and are described with the air of a man who was in the utmost degree familiar with them. It is impossible to discover in any part of it the slightest trace of Christianity. And we believe it will not be disputed, that in a country so pious as that of Wales, it would have been next to impossible for the poet, though ever so much upon his guard, to avoid all allusion to the system of revelation. On the contrary, every thing is Pagan, and in perfect conformity with the theology we are taught to believe prevailed at that time.
These reasons had induced us to admit, for a long time, that it was perfectly genuine, and justly ascribed to the amiable Druid. With respect to the difficulty in regard to the preservation of so long a work for many centuries by the mere force of memory, the translator, together with the rest of the world, had already got over that objection in the case of the celebrated Poems of Ossian. And if he be not blinded by that partiality, which the midwife is apt to conceive for the productions, that she is the instrument of bringing into the world, the Pastoral Romance contains as much originality, as much poetical beauty, and is as happily calculated to make a deep impression upon the memory, as either Fingal, or Temora.
The first thing that led us to doubt its authenticity, was the striking resemblance that appears between the plan of the work, and Milton's celebrated Masque at Ludlow Castle. We do not mean however to hold forth this circumstance as decisive in its condemnation. The pretensions of Cadwallo, or whoever was the author of the performance, are very high to originality. If the date of the Romance be previous to that of Comus, it may be truly said of the author, that he soared above all imitation, and derived his merits from the inexhaustible source of his own invention. But Milton, it is well known, proposed some classical model to himself in all his productions. The Paradise Lost is almost in every page an imitation of Virgil, or Homer. The Lycidas treads closely in the steps of the Daphnis and Gallus of Virgil. The Sampson Agonistes is formed upon the model of Sophocles. Even the little pieces, L'Allegro and Il Penseroso have their source in a song of Fletcher, and two beautiful little ballads that are ascribed to Shakespeare. But the classical model upon which Comus was formed has not yet been discovered. It is infinitely unlike the Pastoral Comedies both of Italy and England. And if we could allow ourselves in that licence of conjecture, which is become almost inseparable from the character of an editor, we should say: That Milton having written it upon the borders of Wales, might have had easy recourse to the manuscript whose contents are now first given to the public: And that the singularity of preserving the name of the place where it was first performed in the title of his poem, was intended for an ingenuous and well-bred acknowledgement of the source from whence he drew his choicest materials.
But notwithstanding the plausibility of these conjectures, we are now inclined to give up our original opinion, and to ascribe the performance to a gentleman of Wales, who lived so late as the reign of king William the third. The name of this amiable person was Rice ap Thomas. The romance was certainly at one time in his custody, and was handed down as a valuable legacy to his descendants, among whom the present translator has the honour to rank himself. Rice ap Thomas, Esquire, was a man of a most sweet and inoffensive disposition, beloved and respected by all his neighbours and tenants, and "passing rich with 'sixty' pounds a year." In his domestic he was elegant, hospitable, and even sumptuous, for the time and country in which he lived. He was however naturally of an abstemious and recluse disposition. He abounded in singularities, which were pardoned to his harmlessness and his virtues; and his temper was full of sensibility, seriousness, and melancholy. He devoted the greater part of his time to study; and he boasted that he had almost a complete collection of the manuscript remains of our Welch bards. He was often heard to prefer even to Taliessin, Merlin, and Aneurim, the effusions of the immortal Cadwallo, and indeed this was the only subject upon which he was ever known to dispute with eagerness and fervour. In the midst of the controversy, he would frequently produce passages from the Pastoral Romance, as decisive of the question. And to confess the truth, I know not how to excuse this piece of jockeyship and ill faith, even in Rice ap Thomas, whom I regard as the father of my family, and the chief ornament of my beloved country.
Some readers will probably however be inclined to apologise for the conduct of Mr. Thomas, and to lay an equivalent blame to my charge. They will tell me, that nothing but the weakest partiality could blind me to the genuine air of antiquity with which the composition is every where impressed, and to ascribe it to a modern writer. But I am conscious to my honesty and defy their malice. So far from being sensible of any improper bias in favour of my ancestor, I am content to strengthen their hands, by acknowledging that the manuscript, which I am not at all desirous of refusing to their inspection, is richly emblazoned with all the discoloration and rust they can possibly desire. I confess that the wording has the purity of Taliessin, and the expressiveness of Aneurim, and is such as I know of no modern Welchman who could write. And yet, in spite as they will probably tell me of evidence and common sense, I still aver my persuasion, that it is the production of Rice ap Thomas.
But enough, and perhaps too much, for the question of its antiquity. It would be unfair to send it into the world without saying something of the nature of its composition. It is unlike the Arcadia of sir Philip Sidney, and unlike, what I have just taken the trouble of running over, the Daphnis of Gessner. It neither on the one hand leaves behind it the laws of criticism, and mixes together the different stages of civilization; nor on the other will it perhaps be found frigid, uninteresting, and insipid. The prevailing opinion of Pastoral seems to have been, that it is a species of composition admirably fitted for the size of an eclogue, but that either its nature will not be preserved, or its simplicity will become surfeiting in a longer performance. And accordingly, the Pastoral Dramas of Tasso, Guarini, and Fletcher, however they may have been commended by the critics, and admired by that credulous train who clap and stare whenever they are bid, have when the recommendation of novelty has subsided been little attended to and little read. But the great Milton has proved that this objection is not insuperable. His Comus is a master-piece of poetical composition. It is at least equal in its kind even to the Paradise Lost. It is interesting, descriptive and pathetic. Its fame is continually increasing, and it will be admired wherever the name of Britain is repeated, and the language of Britain is understood.
If our hypothesis respecting the date of the present performance is admitted, it must be acknowleged that the ingenious Mr. Thomas has taken the Masque of Milton for a model; and the reader with whom Comus is a favourite, will certainly trace some literal imitations. With respect to any objections that may be made on this score to the Pastoral Romance, we will beg the reader to bear in mind, that the volumes before him are not an original, but a translation. Recollecting this, we may, beside the authority of Milton himself, and others as great poets as ever existed who have imitated Homer and one another at least as much as our author has done Comus, suggest two very weighty apologies. In the first place, imitation in a certain degree, has ever been considered as lawful when made from a different language: And in the second, these imitations come to the reader exaggerated, by being presented to him in English, and by a person who confesses, that he has long been conversant with our greatest poets. The translator has always admired Comus as much as the Pastoral Romance; he has read them together, and been used to consider them as illustrating each other. Any verbal coincidences into which he may have fallen, are therefore to be ascribed where they are due, to him, and not to the author. And upon the whole, let the imperfections of the Pastoral Romance be what they will, he trusts he shall be regarded as making a valuable present to the connoisseurs and the men of taste, and an agreeable addition to the innocent amusements of the less laborious classes of the polite world.
BOOK THE FIRST
CHARACTER OF THE SHEPHERDESS AND HER LOVER.—FEAST OF RUTHYN.—SONGS OF THE BARDS.
Listen, O man! to the voice of wisdom. The world thou inhabitest was not intended for a theatre of fruition, nor destined for a scene of repose. False and treacherous is that happiness, which has been preceded by no trial, and is connected with no desert. It is like the gilded poison that undermines the human frame. It is like the hoarse murmur of the winds that announces the brewing tempest. Virtue, for such is the decree of the Most High, is evermore obliged to pass through the ordeal of temptation, and the thorny paths of adversity. If, in this day of her trial, no foul blot obscure her lustre, no irresolution and instability tarnish the clearness of her spirit, then may she rejoice in the view of her approaching reward, and receive with an open heart the crown that shall be bestowed upon her.
The extensive valley of Clwyd once boasted a considerable number of inhabitants, distinguished for primeval innocence and pastoral simplicity. Nature seemed to have prepared it for their reception with all that luxuriant bounty, which characterises her most favoured spots. The inclosure by which it was bounded, of ragged rocks and snow-topt mountains, served but for a foil to the richness and fertility of this happy plain. It was seated in the bosom of North Wales, the whole face of which, with this one exception, was rugged and hilly. As far as the eye could reach, you might see promontory rise above promontory. The crags of Penmaenmawr were visible to the northwest, and the unequalled steep of Snowden terminated the prospect to the south. In its farthest extent the valley reached almost to the sea, and it was intersected, from one end to the other, by the beautiful and translucent waters of the river from which it receives its name.
In this valley all was rectitude and guileless truth. The hoarse din of war had never reached its happy bosom; its river had never been impurpled with the stain of human blood. Its willows had not wept over the crimes of its inhabitants, nor had the iron hand of tyranny taught care and apprehension to seat themselves upon the brow of its shepherds. They were strangers to riches, and to ambition, for they all lived in a happy equality. He was the richest man among them, that could boast of the greatest store of yellow apples and mellow pears. And their only objects of rivalship were the skill of the pipe and the favour of beauty. From morn to eve they tended their fleecy possessions. Their reward was the blazing hearth, the nut-brown beer, and the merry tale. But as they sought only the enjoyment of a humble station, and the pleasures of society, their labours were often relaxed. Often did the setting sun see the young men and the maidens of contiguous villages, assembled round the venerable oak, or the wide-spreading beech. The bells rung in the upland hamlets; the rebecs sounded with rude harmony; they danced with twinkling feet upon the level green or listened to the voice of the song, which was now gay and exhilarating, and now soothed them into pleasing melancholy.
Of all the sons of the plain, the bravest, and the most comely, was Edwin. His forehead was open and ingenuous, his hair was auburn, and flowed about his shoulders in wavy ringlets. His person was not less athletic than it was beautiful. With a firm hand he grasped the boar-spear, and in pursuit he outstripped the flying fawn. His voice was strong and melodious, and whether upon the pipe or in the song, there was no shepherd daring enough to enter the lists with Edwin. But though he excelled all his competitors, in strength of body, and the accomplishments of skill, yet was not his mind rough and boisterous. Success had not taught him a despotic and untractable temper, applause had not made him insolent and vain. He was gentle as the dove. He listened with eager docility to the voice of hoary wisdom. He had always a tear ready to drop over the simple narrative of pastoral distress. Victor as he continually was in wrestling, in the race, and in the song, the shout of triumph never escaped his lips, the exultation of insult he was never heard to utter. On the contrary, with mild and unfictitious friendship, he soothed the breast of disappointment, and cheered the spirits of his adversary with honest praise.
But Edwin was not more distinguished among his brother shepherds, than was Imogen among the fair. Her skin was clear and pellucid. The fall of her shoulders was graceful beyond expression. Her eye-brows were arched, and from her eyes shot forth the grateful rays of the rising sun. Her waist was slender; and as she ran, she outstripped the winds, and her footsteps were printless on the tender herb. Her mind, though soft, was firm; and though yielding as wax to the precepts of wisdom, and the persuasion of innocence, it was resolute and inflexible to the blandishments of folly, and the sternness of despotism. Her ruling passion was the love of virtue. Chastity was the first feature in her character. It gave substance to her accents, and dignity to her gestures. Conscious innocence ennobled all her reflexions, and gave to her sentiments and manner of thinking, I know not what of celestial and divine.
Edwin and Imogen had been united in the sports of earliest infancy. They had been mutual witnesses to the opening blossoms of understanding and benevolence in each others breasts. While yet a boy, Edwin had often rescued his mistress from the rude vivacity of his playmates, and had bestowed upon her many of those little distinctions which were calculated to excite the flame of envy among the infant daughters of the plain. For her he gathered the vermeil-tinctured pearmain, and the walnut with an unsavoury rind; for her he hoarded the brown filberd, and the much prized earth-nut. When she was near, the quoit flew from his arm with a stronger whirl, and his steps approached more swiftly to the destined goal. With her he delighted to retire from the heat of the sun to the centre of the glade, and to sooth her ear with the gaiety of innocence, long before he taught her to hearken to the language of love. For her sake he listened with greater eagerness to the mirthful relation, to the moral fiction, and to the song of the bards. His store of little narratives was in a manner inexhaustible. With them he beguiled the hour of retirement, and with them he hastened the sun to sink behind the western hill.
But as he grew to manly stature, and the down of years had begun to clothe his blushing cheek, he felt a new sensation in his breast hitherto unexperienced. He could not now behold his favourite companion without emotion; his eye sparkled when he approached her; he watched her gestures; he hung upon her accents; he was interested in all her motions. Sometimes he would catch the eye of prudent age or of sharp-sighted rivalry observing him, and he instantly became embarrassed and confused, and blushed he knew not why. He repaired to the neighbouring wake, in order to exchange his young lambs and his hoard of cheeses. Imogen was not there, and in the midst of traffic, and in the midst of frolic merriment he was conscious to a vacancy and a listlessness for which he could not account. When he tended his flocks, and played upon his slender pipe, he would sink in reverie, and form to himself a thousand schemes of imaginary happiness. Erewhile they had been vague and general. His spirit was too gentle for him not to represent to himself a fancied associate; his heart was not narrow enough to know so much as the meaning of a solitary happiness. But Imogen now formed the principal figure in these waking dreams. It was Imogen with whom he wandered beside the brawling rill. It was Imogen with whom he sat beneath the straw-built shed, and listened to the pealing rain, and the hollow roaring of the northern blast. If a moment of forlornness and despair fell to his lot, he wandered upon the heath without his Imogen, and he climbed the upright precipice without her harmonious voice to cheer and to animate him. In a word, passion had taken up her abode in his guileless heart before he was aware of her approach. Imogen was fair; and the eye of Edwin was enchanted. Imogen was gentle; and Edwin loved.
Simple as was the character of the inhabitants of this happy valley, it is not to be supposed that Edwin found many obstacles to the enjoyment of the society of his mistress. Though strait as the pine, and beautiful as the gold-skirted clouds of a summer morning, the parents of Imogen had not learned to make a traffic of the future happiness of their care. They sought not to decide who should be the fortunate shepherd that should carry her from the sons of the plain. They left the choice to her penetrating wit, and her tried discretion. They erected no rampart to defend her chastity; they planted no spies to watch over her reputation. They entrusted her honour to her own keeping. They were convinced, that the spotless dictates of conscious innocence, and that divinity that dwells in virtue and awes the shaggy satyr into mute admiration, were her sufficient defence. They left to her the direction of her conduct. The shepherdess, unsuspicious by nature, and untaught to view mankind with a wary and a jealous eye, was a stranger to severity and caprice. She was all gentleness and humanity. The sweetness of her temper led her to regard with an eye of candour, and her benevolence to gratify all the innocent wishes, of those about her. The character of a woman undistinguishing in her favours, and whose darling employment is to increase the number of her admirers, is in the highest degree unnatural. Such was not the character of Imogen. She was artless and sincere. Her tongue evermore expressed the sentiments of her heart. She drew the attention of no swain from a rival; she employed no stratagems to inveigle the affections; she mocked not the respect of the simple shepherd with delusive encouragement. No man charged her with broken vows; no man could justly accuse her of being cruel and unkind.
It may therefore readily be supposed, that the subject of love rather glided into the conversation of Edwin and Imogen, than was regularly and designedly introduced. They were unknowing in the art of disguising their feelings. When the tale spoke of peril and bravery, the eyes of Edwin sparkled with congenial sentiments, and he was evermore ready to start from the grassy hilloc upon which they sat. When the little narrative told of the lovers pangs, and the tragic catastrophe of two gentle hearts whom nature seemed to have formed for mildness and tranquility, Imogen was melted into the softest distress. The breast of her Edwin would heave with a sympathetic sigh, and he would even sometimes venture, from mingled pity and approbation, to kiss away the tear that impearled her cheek. Intrepid and adventurous with the hero, he began also to take a new interest in the misfortunes of love. He could not describe the passionate complaints, the ingenuous tenderness of another, without insensibly making the case his own. "Had the lover known my Imogen, he would no longer have sighed for one, who could not have been so fair, so gentle, and so lovely." Such were the thoughts of Edwin; and till now Edwin had always expressed his thoughts. But now the words fell half-formed from his trembling lips, and the sounds died away before they were uttered. "Were I to speak, Imogen, who has always beheld me with an aspect of benignity, might be offended. I should say no more than the truth; but Imogen is modest. She does not suspect that she possesses half the superiority over such as are called fair, which I see in her. And who could bear to incur the resentment of Imogen? Who would irritate a temper so amiable and mild? I should say no more than the truth; but Imogen would think it flattery. Let Edwin be charged with all other follies, but let that vice never find a harbour in his bosom; let the imputation of that detested crime never blot his untarnished name."
Edwin had received from nature the gift of an honest and artless eloquence. His words were like the snow that falls beneath the beams of the sun; they melted as they fell. Had it been his business to have pleaded the cause of injured innocence or unmerited distress, his generous sympathy and his manly persuasion must have won all hearts. Had he solicited the pursuit of rectitude and happiness, his ingenuous importunity could not have failed of success. But where the mind is too deeply interested, there it is that the faculties are most treacherous. Ardent were the sighs of Edwin, but his voice refused its assistance, and his tongue faultered under the attempts that he made. Fluent and voluble upon all other subjects, upon this he hesitated. For the first time he was dissatisfied with the expressions that nature dictated. For the first time he dreaded to utter the honest wishes of his heart, apprehensive that he might do violence to the native delicacy of Imogen.
But he needed not have feared. Imogen was not blind to those perfections which every mouth conspired to praise. Her heart was not cold and unimpassioned; she could not see these perfections, united with youth and personal beauty, without being attracted. The accents of Edwin were music to her ear. The tale that Edwin told, interested her twice as much as what she heard from vulgar lips. To wander with Edwin along the flowery mead, to sit with Edwin in the cool alcove, had charms for her for which she knew not how to account, and which she was at first unwilling to acknowledge to her own heart. When she heard of the feats of the generous lover, his gallantry in the rural sports, and his reverence for the fair, it was under the amiable figure of Edwin that he came painted to her treacherous imagination. She was a stranger to artifice and disguise, and the renown of Edwin was to her the feast of the soul, and with visible satisfaction she dwelt upon his praise. Even in sleep her dreams were of the deserving shepherd. The delusive pleasures that follow in the train of dark-browed night, all told of Edwin. The unreal mockery of that capricious being, who cheats us with scenes of fictitious wretchedness, was full of the unmerited calamities, the heartbreaking woe, or the untimely death of Edwin. From Edwin therefore the language of love would have created no disgust. Imogen was not heedless and indiscreet; she would not have sacrificed the dignity of innocence. Imogen was not coy; she would not have treated her admirer with affected disdain. She had no guard but virgin modesty and that conscious worth, that would be wooed, and not unsought be won.
Such was the yet immature attachment of our two lovers, when an anniversary of religious mirth summoned them, together with their neighbour shepherds of the adjacent hamlet, to the spot which had long been consecrated to rural sports and guiltless festivity, near the village of Ruthyn. The sun shone with unusual splendour; the Druidical temples, composed of immense and shapeless stones, heaped upon each other by a power stupendous and incomprehensible, reflected back his radiant beams. The glade, the place of destination to the frolic shepherds, was shrouded beneath two venerable groves that encircled it on either side. The eye could not pierce beyond them, and the imagination was in a manner embosomed in the vale. There were the quivering alder, the upright fir, and the venerable oak crowned with sacred mistletoe. They grew upon a natural declivity that descended every way towards the plain. The deep green of the larger trees was fringed towards the bottom with the pleasing paleness of the willow. From one of the groves a little rivulet glided across the plain, and was intersected on one side by a stream that flowed into it from a point equally distant from either extremity of its course. Both these streams were bordered with willows. In a word, upon the face of this beautiful spot all appeared tranquility and peace. It was without a path, and you would imagine that no human footsteps had ever invaded the calmness of its solitude. It was the eternal retreat of the venerable anchorite; it was the uninhabited paradise in the midst of the trackless ocean.
Such was the spot where the shepherds and shepherdesses of a hundred cots were now assembled. In the larger compartiments of the vale, the more muscular and vigorous swains pursued the flying ball, or contended in the swift-footed race. The bards, venerable for their age and the snowy whiteness of their hair, sat upon a little eminence as umpires of the sports. In the smaller compartiments, the swains, mingled with the fair, danced along the level green, or flew, with a velocity that beguiled the eager sight, beneath the extended arms of their fellows. Here a few shepherds, apart from the rest, flung the ponderous quoit that sung along the air. There two youths, stronger and more athletic than the throng, grasped each others arms with an eager hand, and struggled for the victory. Now with manly vigour the one shook the sinewy frame of the other; now they bended together almost to the earth, and now with double force they reared again their gigantic stature. At one time they held each other at the greatest possible distance; and again, their arms, their legs and their whole bodies entwined, they seemed as if they had grown together. When the weaker or less skilful was overthrown, he tumbled like a vast and mountain oak, that for ages had resisted the tumult of the winds; and the whole plain resounded at his fall. Such as were unengaged formed a circle round the wrestlers, and by their shouts and applause animated by turns the flagging courage of either.
And now the sun had gained his meridian height, and, fatigued with labour and heat, they seated themselves upon the grass to partake of their plain and rural feast. The parched wheat was set out in baskets, and the new cheeses were heaped together. The blushing apple, the golden pear, the shining plum, and the rough-coated chesnut were scattered in attractive confusion. Here were the polished cherry and the downy peach; and here the eager gooseberry, and the rich and plenteous clusters of the purple grape. The neighbouring fountain afforded them a cool and sparkling beverage, and the lowing herds supplied the copious bowl with white and foaming draughts of milk. The meaner bards accompanied the artless luxury of the feast with the symphony of their harps.
The repast being finished, the company now engaged in those less active sports, that exercise the subtility of the wit, more than the agility or strength of the body. Their untutored minds delighted themselves in the sly enigma, and the quaint conundrum. Much was their laughter at the wild guesses of the thoughtless and the giddy; and great the triumph of the swain who penetrated the mystery, and successfully removed the abstruseness of the problem. Many were the feats of skill exhibited by the dextrous shepherd, and infinite were the wonder and admiration of the gazing spectators. The whole scene indeed was calculated to display the triumph of stratagem and invention. A thousand deceits were practised upon the simple and unsuspecting, and while he looked round to discover the object of the general mirth, it was increased into bursts of merriment, and convulsive gaiety. At length they rose from the verdant green, and chased each other in mock pursuit. Many flew towards the adjoining grove; the pursued concealed himself behind the dark and impervious thicket, or the broad trunk of the oak, while the pursuers ran this way and that, and cast their wary eyes on every side. Carefully they explored the bushes, and surveyed each clump of tufted trees. And now the neighbouring echoes repeated the universal shout, and proclaimed to the plain below, that the object of their search was found. Fatigue however, in spite of the gaiety of spirit with which their sports were pursued, began to assert his empire, and they longed for that tranquility and repose which were destined to succeed.
At this instant the united sound of the lofty harp, the melodious rebec, and the chearful pipe, summoned them once again to the plain. From every side they hastened to the lawn, and surrounded, with ardent eyes, and panting expectation, the honoured troop of the bards, crowned with laurel and sacred mistletoe. And now they seated themselves upon the tender herb; and now all was stilness and solemn silence. Not one whisper floated on the breeze; not a murmur was heard. The tumultuous winds were hushed, and all was placid composure, save where the gentle zephyr fanned the leaves. The tinkling rill babbled at their feet; the feathered choristers warbled in the grove; and the deep lowings of the distant herds died away upon the ear. The solemn prelude began from a full concert of the various instruments. It awakened attention in the thoughtless, and composed the frolic and the gay into unbroken heedfulness. The air was oppressed with symphonious sounds, and the ear filled with a tumult of harmony.
On a sudden the chorus ceased: Those instruments which had united their force to fill the echoes of every grove, and of every hill, were silent. And now a bard, of youthful appearance, but who was treated with every mark of honour and distinction, and seated on the left hand of the hoary Llewelyn, the prince of song, struck the lyre with a lofty and daring hand. His eye sparkled with poetic rapture, and his countenance beamed with the sublime smile of luxuriant fancy and heaven-born inspiration. He sung of the wanton shepherd, that followed, with ungenerous perseverance, the chaste and virgin daughter of Cadwallo. The Gods took pity upon her distress, the Gods sent down their swift and winged messenger to shield her virtue, and deliver her from the persecution of Modred. With strong and eager steps the ravisher pursued: timid apprehension, and unviolated honour, urged her rapid flight. But Modred was in the pride of youth; muscular and sinewy was the frame of Modred. Beauteous and snowy was the person of the fair: her form was delicate, and her limbs were tender. If heaven had not interposed, if the Gods had not been on her side, she must have fallen a victim to savage fury and brutal lust. But, in the crisis of her fate, she gradually sunk away before the astonished eyes of Modred. That beauteous frame was now no more, and she started from before him, swifter than the winds, a timid and listening hare. Still, still the hunter pursued; he suspended not the velocity of his course. The speed of Modred was like the roe upon the mountains; every moment he gained upon the daughter of Cadwallo. But now the object of his pursuit vanished from his sight, and eluded his eager search. In vain he explored every thicket, and surveyed all the paths of the forest. While he was thus employed, on a sudden there burst from a cave a hungry and savage wolf; it was the daughter of Cadwallo. Modred started with horror, and in his turn fled away swifter than the winds. The fierce and ravenous animal pursued; fire flashed from the eye, and rage and fury sat upon the crest. Mild and gentle was the daughter of Cadwallo; her heart relented; her soft and tender spirit belied the savage form. They approached the far famed stream of Conway. Modred cast behind him a timid and uncertain eye; the virgin passed along, no longer terrible, a fair and milk white hind. Modred inflamed with disappointment, reared his ponderous boar spear, and hurled it from his hand. Too well, ah, cruel and untutored swain! thou levelest thy aim. Her tender side is gored; her spotless and snowy coat is deformed with blood. Agitated with pain, superior to fear, she plunges in the flood. When lo! a wonder; on the opposite shore she rises, radiant and unhurt, in her native form. Modred contemplates the prodigy with astonishment; his lust and his brutality inflame him more than ever. Eagerly he gazes on her charms; in thought he devours her inexpressive beauties. And now he can no longer restrain himself; with sudden start he leaps into the river. The waves are wrought into a sudden tempest; they hurry him to and fro. He buffets them with lusty arms; he rides upon the billows. But vain is human strength; the unseen messenger of the Gods laughs at the impotent efforts of Modred. At length the waters gape with a frightful void; the bottom, strewed with shells, and overgrown with sea-weed, is disclosed to the sight. Modred, unhappy Modred, sinks to rise no more. His beauty is tarnished like the flower of the field; his blooming cheek, his crimson lip, is pale and colourless. Learn hence, ye swains, to fear the Gods, and to reverence the divinity of virtue. Modred never melted for another's woe; the tear of sympathy had not moistened his cheek. The heart of Modred was haughty, insolent and untractable; he turned a deaf ear to the supplication of the helpless, he listened not to the thunder of the Gods. Let the fate of Modred be remembered for a caution to the precipitate; let the children of the valley learn wisdom. Heaven never deserts the cause of virtue; chastity wherever she wanders (be it not done in pride or in presumption) is sacred and invulnerable.
Such was the song of the youthful bard. Every eye was fixed upon his visage while he struck the lyre; the multitude of the shepherds appeared to have no faculty but the ear. And now the murmur of applause began; and the wondering swains seemed to ask each other, whether the God of song were not descended among them. "Oh glorious youth," cried they, "how early is thy excellence! Ere manhood has given nerve and vigour to thy limbs, ere yet the flowing beard adorns thy gallant breast, nature has unlocked to thee her hidden treasures, the Gods have enriched thee with all the charms of poetry. Great art thou among the bards; illustrious in wisdom, where they all are wise. Should gracious heaven spare thy life, we will cease to weep the death of Hoel; we will lament no longer the growing infirmities of Llewelyn."
While they yet spoke, a bard, who sat upon the right hand of the prince, prepared to sweep the string. He was in the prime of manhood. His shining locks flowed in rich abundance upon his strong and graceful shoulders. His eye expressed more of flame than gaiety, more of enthusiasm than imagination. His brow, though manly, and, as it should seem, by nature erect, bore an appearance of solemn and contemplative. He had ever been distinguished by an attachment to solitude, and a love for those grand and tremendous objects of uncultivated nature with which his country abounded. His were the hanging precipice, and the foaming cataract. His ear drank in the voice of the tempest; he was rapt in attention to the roaring thunder. When the contention of the elements seemed to threaten the destruction of the universe, when Snowdon bowed to its deepest base, it was then that his mind was most filled with sublime meditation. His lofty soul soared above the little war of terrestrial objects, and rode expanded upon the wings of the winds. Yet was the bard full of gentleness and sensibility; no breast was more susceptible to the emotions of pity, no tongue was better skilled in the soft and passionate touches of the melting and pathetic. He possessed a key to unlock all the avenues of the heart.
Such was the bard, and this was the subject of his song. He told of a dreadful famine, that laid waste the shores of the Menai. Heaven, not to punish the shepherds, for, alas, what had these innocent shepherds done? but in the mysterious wisdom of its ways, had denied the refreshing shower, and the soft-descending dew. From the top of Penmaenmawr, as far as the eye could reach, all was uniform and waste. The trees were leafless, not one flower adorned the ground, not one tuft of verdure appeared to relieve the weary eye. The brooks were dried up; their beds only remained to tell the melancholy tale, Here once was water; the tender lambs hastened to the accustomed brink, and lifted up their innocent eyes with anguish and disappointment. The meadows no longer afforded pasture of the cattle; the trees denied their fruits to man. In this hour of calamity the Druids came forth from their secret cells, and assembled upon the heights of Mona. This convention of the servants of the Gods, though intended to relieve the general distress, for a moment increased it. The shepherds anticipated the fatal decree; they knew that at times like this the blood of a human victim was accustomed to be shed upon the altars of heaven. Every swain trembled for himself or his friend; every parent feared to be bereaved of the staff of his age. And now the holy priest had cast the lots in the mysterious urn; and the lot fell upon the generous Arthur. Arthur was beloved by all the shepherds that dwelt upon the margin of the main; the praise of Arthur sat upon the lips of all that knew him. But what served principally to enhance the distress, was the attachment there existed between him and the beauteous Evelina. Mild was the breast of Evelina, unused to encounter the harshness of opposition, or the chilly hand and forbidding countenance of adversity. From twenty shepherds she had chosen the gallant Arthur, to reward his pure and constant love. Long had they been decreed to make each other happy. No parent opposed himself to their virtuous desires; the blessing of heaven awaited them from the hand of the sacred Druid. But in the general calamity of their country they had no heart to rejoice; they could not insult over the misery of all around them. "Soon, oh soon," cried the impatient shepherd, "may the wrath of heaven be overpast! Extend, all-merciful divinity, thy benign influence to the shores of Arvon! Once more may the rustling of the shower refresh our longing ears! Once more may our eyes be gladdened with the pearly, orient dew! May the fields be clothed afresh in cheerful green! May the flowers enamel the verdant mead! May the brooks again brawl along their pebbly bed! And may man and beast rejoice together!" Ah, short-sighted, unapprehensive shepherd! thou dost not know the misfortune that is reserved for thyself; thou dost not know, that thou shalt not live to behold those smiling scenes which thy imagination forestallest; thou dost not see the dart of immature and relentless death that is suspended over thee. Think, O ye swains, what was the universal astonishment and pity, when the awful voice of the Druid proclaimed the decree of heaven! Terror sat upon every other countenance, tears started into every other eye; but the mien of Arthur was placid and serene. He came forward from the throng; his eyes glistened with the fire of patriotism. "Hear me, my countrymen," cried he, "for you I am willing to die. What is my insignificant life, when weighed against the happiness of Arvon? Be grateful to the Gods, that, for so poor a boon, they are willing to spread wide the hand of bounty, and to exhaust upon your favoured heads the horn of plenty." While he spoke he turned his head to the spot from which he had advanced, and beheld, a melting object, Evelina, pale and breathless, supported in the arms of the maidens. For a moment he forgot his elevated sentiments and his heroism, and flew to raise her. "Evelina, mistress of my heart, awake. Lift up thine eyes and bless thy Arthur. Be not too much subdued by my catastrophe. Live to comfort the grey hairs, and to succour the infirmities of your aged parent." While the breast of Arthur was animated with such sentiments, and dictated a conduct like this, the priests were employed in the mournful preparations. The altar was made ready; the lambent fire ascended from its surface; the air was perfumed with the smoke of the incense; the fillets were brought forth; and the sacred knife glittered in the hand of the chief of the Druids. The bards had strung their harps, and began the song of death. The sounds were lofty and animating, they were fitted to inspire gallantry and enterprise into the trembling coward; they were fitted to breathe a soul into the clay-cold corse. The spirit of Arthur was roused; his eye gleamed with immortal fire. The aged oak, that strikes its root beneath the soil, so defies the blast, and so rears its head in the midst of the whirlwind. But oh, who can paint the distress of Evelina? Now she dropped her head, like the tender lily whose stalk, by some vulgar and careless hand has been broken; and now she was wild and ungovernable, like the wild beast that has been robbed of its young. For an instant the venerable name of religion awed her into mute submission. But when the fatal moment approached, not the Gods, if the Gods had descended in all their radiant brightness, could have restrained her any longer. The air was rent with her piercing cries. She spoke not. Her eyes, in silence turned towards heaven, distilled a plenteous shower. At length, swifter than the winged hawk, she flew towards the spot, and seized the sacred and inviolable arm of the holy Druid, which was lifted up to strike the final blow. "Barbarous and inhuman priest," she cried, "cease your vile and impious mummery! No longer insult us with the name of Gods. If there be Gods, they are merciful; but thou art a savage and unrelenting monster. Or if some victim must expire, strike here, and I will thank thee. Strike, and my bosom shall heave to meet the welcome blow. Do any thing. But oh, spare me the killing, killing spectacle!" During this action the maidens approached and hurried her from the plain. "Go," cried Arthur, "and let not the heart of Evelina be sad. My Death has nothing in it that deserves to be deplored. It is glorious and enviable. It shall be remembered when this frame is crumbled into dust. The song of the bards shall preserve it to never dying fame." The inconsolable fair one had now been forced away. The intrepid shepherd bared his breast to the sacred knife. His nerves trembled not. His bosom panted not. And now behold the lovely youth, worthy to have lived through revolving years, sunk on the ground, and weltering in his blood. Yes, gallant Arthur, thou shalt possess that immortality which was the first wish of thy heart! My song shall embalm thy precious memory, thy generous, spotless fame! But, ah, it is not in the song of the bards to sooth the rooted sorrow of Evelina. Every morning serves only to renew it. Every night she bathes her couch in tears. Those objects, which carry pleasure to the sense of every other fair, serve only to renew thy unexhausted grief. The rustling shower, the pearly dew, the brawling brook, the cheerful green, the flower-enameled mead, all join to tell of the barbarous and untimely fate of Arthur. Smile no more, O ye meads; mock not the grief of Evelina. Let the trees again be leafless; let the rivers flow no longer in their empty beds. A scene like this suits best the settled temper of Evelina.
He ceased. And his pathetic strain had awakened the sympathy of the universal throng. Every shepherd hung his mournful head, when the untimely fate of Arthur was related; every maiden dropped a generous tear over the sorrows of Evelina. They listened to the song, and forgot the poet. Their souls were rapt with alternate passions, and they perceived not the matchless skill by which they were excited. The lofty bard hurried them along with the rapidity of his conceptions, and left them no time for hesitation, and left them no time for reflection. He ceased, and the melodious sounds still hung upon their ear, and they still sat in the posture of eager attention. At length they recollected themselves; and it was no longer the low and increasing murmur of applause: it was the exclamation of rapture; it was the unpremeditated shout of astonishment.
In the mean time, the reverend Llewelyn, upon whose sacred head ninety winters had scattered their snow, grasped the lyre, which had so often confessed the master's hand. Though far advanced in the vale of years, there was a strength and vigour in his age, of which the degeneracy of modern times can have little conception. The fire was not extinguished in his flaming eye; it had only attained that degree of chasteness and solemnity, which had in it by so much the more, all that is majestic, and all that is celestial. His looks held commerce with his native skies. No vulgar passion ever visited his heaven-born mind. No vulgar emotion ever deformed the godlike tranquility of his soul. He had but one passion; it was the love of harmony. He was conscious only to one emotion; it was reverence for the immortal Gods. He sat like the anchorite upon the summit of Snowdon. The tempests raise the foaming ocean into one scene of horror, but he beholds it unmoved. The rains descend, the thunder roars, and the lightnings play beneath his feet.
Llewelyn struck the lyre, and the innumerable croud was noiseless and silent as the chambers of death. They did not now wait for the pleasing tale of a luxuriant imagination, or the pathetic and melting strain of the mourner. They composed their spirits into the serenity of devotion. They called together their innocent thoughts for the worship of heaven. By anticipation their bosoms swelled with gratitude, and their hearts dilated into praise.
The pious Llewelyn began his song from the rude and shapeless chaos. He magnified the almighty word that spoke it into form. He sung of the loose and fenny soil which gradually acquired firmness and density. The immeasurable, eternal caverns of the ocean were scooped. The waters rushed along, and fell with resounding, foamy violence to the depth below. The sun shone forth from his chamber in the east, and the earth wondered at the object, and smiled beneath his beams. Suddenly the whole face of it was adorned with a verdant, undulating robe. The purple violet and the yellow crocus bestrewed the ground. The stately oak reared its branchy head, and the trees and shrubs burst from the surface of the earth. Impregnated by power divine, the soil was prolific in other fruits than these. The clods appeared to be informed with a conscious spirit, and gradually assumed a thousand various forms. The animated earth seemed to paw the verdant mead, and to despise the mould from which it came. A disdainful horse, it shook its flowing mane, and snuffed the enlivening breeze, and stretched along the plain. The red-eyed wolf and the unwieldy ox burst like the mole the concealing continent, and threw the earth in hillocs. The stag upreared his branching head. The thinly scattered animals wandered among the unfrequented hills, and cropped the untasted herb. Meantime the birds, with many coloured plumage, skimmed along the unploughed air, and taught the silent woods and hills to echo with their song.
Creatures, hymn the praises of your creator! Thou sun, prolific parent of a thousand various productions, by whose genial heat they are nurtured, and whose radiant beams give chearfulness and beauty to the face of nature, first of all the existences of this material universe acknowledge him thy superior, and while thou dispensest a thousand benefits to the inferior creation, ascribe thine excellencies solely to the great source of beauty and perfection! And when the sun has ceased his wondrous course, do thou, O moon, in milder lustre show to people of a thousand names the honours of thy maker! Thou loud and wintery north wind, in majestic and tremendous tone declare his lofty praise! Ye gentle zephyrs, whisper them to the modest, and softly breathe them in the ears of the lowly! Ye towering pines, and humble shrubs, ye fragrant flowers, and, more than all, ye broad and stately oaks, bind your heads, and wave your branches, and adore! Ye warbling fountains, warbling tune his praise! Praise him, ye beasts, in different strains! And let the birds, that soar on lofty wings, and scale the path of heaven, bear, in their various melody, the notes of adoration to the skies! Mortals, ye favoured sons of the eternal father, be it yours in articulate expressions of gratitude to interpret for the mute creation, and to speak a sublimer and more rational homage.
Heard ye not the music of the spheres? Know ye not the melody of celestial voices? On yonder silver-skirted cloud I see them come. It turns its brilliant lining on the setting day. And these are the accents of their worship. "Ye sons of women, such as ye are now, such once were we. Through many scenes of trial, through heroic constancy, and ever-during patience, have we attained to this bright eminence. Large and mysterious are the paths of heaven, just and immaculate his ways. If ye listen to the siren voice of pleasure, if upon the neck of heedless youth you throw the reins, that base and earth-born clay which now you wear, shall assume despotic empire. And when you quit the present narrow scene, ye shall wear a form congenial to your vices. The fierce and lawless shall assume the figure of the unrelenting wolf. The unreflecting tyrant, that raised a mistaken fame from scenes of devastation and war, shall spurn the ground, a haughty and indignant horse; and in that form, shall learn, by dear experience, what were the sufferings and what the scourge that he inflicted on mankind. The sensual shall wear the shaggy vesture of the goat, or foam and whet his horrid tusks, a wild and untame'd boar. But virtue prepares its possessor for the skies. Upon the upright and the good, attendant angels wait. With heavenly spirits they converse. On them the dark machinations of witchcraft, and the sullen spirits of darkness have no power. Even the outward form is impressed with a beam of celestial lustre. By slow, but never ceasing steps, they tread the path of immortality and honour. Then, mortals, love, support, and cherish each other. Fear the Gods, and reverence their holy, white-robed servants. Let the sacred oak be your care. Worship the holy and everlasting mistletoe. And when all the objects that you now behold shall be involved in universal conflagration, and time shall be no more; ye shall mix with Gods, ye shall partake their thrones, and be crowned like them with never-fading laurel."
BOOK THE SECOND
THUNDER STORM.—THE RAPE OF IMOGEN.—EDWIN ARRIVES AT THE GROTTO OF ELWY.—CHARACTER OF THE MAGICIAN.—THE END OF THE FIRST DAY.
The song of Llewelyn was heard by the shepherds with reverence and mute attention. Their blameless hearts were lifted to the skies with the sentiment of gratitude; their honest bosoms overflowed with the fervour of devotion. They proved their sympathy with the feelings of the bard, not by licentious shouts and wild huzzas, but by the composure of their spirits, the serenity of their countenances, and the deep and unutterable silence which universally prevailed. And now the hoary minstrel rose from the little eminence, beneath the aged oak, from whose branches depended the ivy and the honeysuckle, on which the veneration of the multitude had placed him. He came into the midst of the plain, and the sons and the daughters of the fertile Clwyd pressed around him. Fervently they kissed the hem of his garment; eagerly with their eyes they sought to encounter the benign rays of his countenance. With the dignity of a magistrate, and the tenderness of a father, he lifted his aged arms, and poured upon them his mild benediction. "Children, I have met your fathers, and your fathers fathers, beneath the hills of Ruthyn. Such as they were, such are ye, and such ever may ye remain. The lily is not more spotless, the rose and the violet do not boast a more fragrant odour, than the incense of your prayers when it ascends to the footstool of the Gods. Guileless and undesigning are you as the yearling lamb; gentle and affectionate as the cooing dove. Qualities like these the Gods behold with approbation; to qualities like these the Gods assign their choicest blessings. My sons, there is a splendour that dazzles, rather than enlightens; there is a heat that burns rather than fructifies. Let not characters like these excite your ambition. Be yours the unfrequented sylvan scene. Be yours the shadowy and unnoticed vale of obscurity. Here are the mild and unruffled affections. Here are virtue, peace and happiness. Here also are GODS."
Having thus said, he dismissed the assembly, and the shepherds prepared to return to their respective homes. Edwin and Imogen, as they had come, so they returned together. The parents of the maiden had confided her to the care of the gallant shepherds. "She is our only child," said they, "our only treasure, and our life is wrapt up in her safety. Watch over her like her guardian genius. Bring her again to our arms adorned with the cheerfulness of tranquility and innocence." The breast of Edwin was dilated with the charge; he felt a gentle undulation of pride and conscious importance about his heart, at the honour conferred upon him.
The setting sun now gilded the western hills. His beams played upon their summits, and were reflected in an irregular semi-circle of splendour, spotless and radiant as the robes of the fairies. The heat of the day was over, the atmosphere was mild, and all the objects round them quiet and serene. A gentle zephyr fanned the leaves; and the shadows of the trees, projecting to their utmost length, gave an additional coolness and a soberer tint to the fields through which they passed.
The conversation of these innocent and guileless lovers was, as it were, in unison with the placidness of the evening. The sports, in which they had been engaged, had inspired them with gaiety, and the songs they had heard, had raised their thoughts to a sublimer pitch than was usual to them. They praised the miracles of the tale of Modred; they sympathised with the affliction of Evelina; and they spoke with the most unfeigned reverence of the pious and venerable Llewelyn.
But the harmless chearfulness of their conversation did not last long. The serenity that was around them was soon interrupted, and their attention was diverted to external objects. Suddenly you might have perceived a cloud, small and dark, that rose from the bosom of the sea. By swift advances it became thicker and broader, till the whole heavens were enveloped in its dismal shade. The gentle zephyr, that anon played among the trees, was changed into a wind hollow and tumultuous. Its course was irregular. Now all was still and silent as the caverns of death; and again it burst forth in momentary blasts, or whirled the straws and fallen leaves in circling eddies. The light of day was shrouded and invisible. The slow and sober progress of evening was forestalled. The woods and the hills were embosomed in darkness. Their summits were no longer gilded. One by one the beams of the sun were withdrawn from each; and at length Snowdon itself could not be perceived.
Our shepherd and his charge had at this moment reached the most extensive and unprotected part of the plain. No friendly cot was near to shield them from the coming storm. And now a solemn peal of thunder seemed to roll along over their heads. They had begun to fly, but the tender Imogen was terrified at the unexpected crash, and sunk, almost breathless, into the arms of Edwin. In the mean time, the lightnings seemed to fill the heavens with their shining flame. The claps of thunder grew louder and more frequent. They reverberated from rock to rock, and from hill to hill. If at any time, for a transitory interval, the tremendous echoes died away upon the ear, it was filled with the hollow roaring of the winds, and the boisterous dashing of the distant waves. At length the pealing rain descended. It seemed as if all the waters of heaven were exhausted upon their naked heads. The anxious and afflicted Edwin took his beauteous and insensible companion in his arms, and flew across the plain.
But at this instant, a more extraordinary and terrifying object engrossed his attention. An oak, the monarch of the plain, towards which he bent his rapid course, was suddenly struck with the bolt of heaven, and blasted in his sight. Its large and spreading branches were withered; its leaves shrunk up and faded. In the very trunk a gaping and tremendous rift appeared. At the same moment two huge and craggy cliffs burst from the surrounding rocks, to which they had grown for ages, and tumbling with a hideous noise, trundled along the plain.
At length a third spectacle, more horrible than the rest, presented itself to the affrighted eyes of Edwin. He saw a figure, larger than the human, that walked among the clouds, and piloted the storm. Its appearance was dreadful, and its shape, loose and undistinguishable, seemed to be blended with the encircling darkness. From its coutenance gleamed a barbarous smile, ten times more terrific than the frown of any other being. Triumph, inhuman triumph, glistened in its eye, and, with relentless delight, it brewed the tempest, and hurled the destructive lightning. Edwin gazed upon this astonishing apparition, and knew it for a goblin of darkness. The heart of Edwin, which no human terror could appal, sunk within him; his nerves trembled, and the objects that surrounded him, swam in confusion before his eyes. But it is not for virtue to tremble; it is not for conscious innocence to fear the power of elves and goblins. Edwin presently recollected himself, and a gloomy kind of tranquility assumed the empire of his heart. He was more watchful than ever for his beloved Imogen; he gazed with threefold earnestness upon the fearful spectre.
A sound now invaded his ear, from the shapeless rocks behind him. They repeated it with all their echoes. It was hollow as the raging wind; and yet it was not the raging wind. It was loud as the roaring thunder; and yet it was not the voice of thunder. But he did not remain long in suspense, from whence the voice proceeded. A wolf, whom hunger had made superior to fear, leaped from the rock, upon the plain below. Edwin turned his eyes upon the horrid monster; he grasped his boarspear in his hand. The unconscious Imogen glided from his arms, and he advanced before her. He met the savage in his fury, and plunged his weapon in his side. He overturned the monster; he drew forth his lance reeking with his blood; his enemy lay convulsed in the agonies of death. But ere he could return, he heard the sound of a car rattling along the plain. The reins were of silk, and the chariot shone with burnished gold. Upon the top of it sat a man, tall, lusty, and youthful. His hair flowed about his shoulders, his eyes sparkled with untamed fierceness, and his brow was marked with the haughty insolence of pride. It was Roderic, lord of a hundred hills; but Edwin knew him not. The goblin descended from its eminence, and directed the course of Roderic. In a moment, he seized the breathless and insensible Imogen, and lifted her to his car. Edwin beheld the scene with grief and astonishment; his senses were in a manner overwhelmed with so many successive prodigies. But he did not long remain inactive; grief and astonishment soon gave way to revenge. He took his javelin, still red with the blood of the mountain wolf, and whirled it from his hand. Edwin was skilled to toss the dart; from his hand it flew unerring to its aim. Forceful it sung along the air; but the goblin advanced with hasty steps among the clouds. It touched it with its hand, and it fell harmless and pointless to the ground. During this action the car of Roderic disappeared. The goblin immediately vanished; and Edwin was left in solitude.
The storm however had not yet ceased. The rain descended with all its former fury. The thunder roared with a strong and deafening sound. The lightnings flamed from pole to pole. But the lightnings flamed, and the thunder roared unregarded. The storm beat in vain upon the unsheltered head of Edwin. "Where," cried he, with the voice of anguish and despair, "is my Imogen, my mistress, my wife, the charmer of my soul, the solace of my heart?" Saying this, he sprung away like the roe upon the mountains. His pace was swifter than that of the zephyr when it sweeps along over the unbending corn. He soon reached the avenue by which the chariot had disappeared from his sight. He leaped from rock to rock; he ascended to the summit of the cliff. His eye glanced the swift-flying car of Roderic; he knew him by his gilded carriage, and his spangled vest. But he saw him only for a moment. His aching eye pursued the triumphant flight in vain. "Stay, stay, base ravisher, inglorious coward!" he exclaimed. "If thou art a man, return and meet me. I will encounter thee hand to hand. I will not fear the strength of thy shoulders, and the haughtiness of thy crest. If in such a cause, with the pride of virtue on my side, with all the Gods to combat for me, I am yet vanquished, then be Imogen thine: then let her be submitted to thy despotic power, to thy brutal outrage, and I will not murmur."
But his words were given to the winds of heaven. Roderic fled far, far away. The heart of Edwin was wrung with anguish. "Ye kind and merciful Gods!" exclaimed he, "grant but this one prayer, and the voice of Edwin shall no more importune you with presumptuous vows. Blot from the book of fate the tedious interval. Give me to find the potent villain. Though he be hemmed in with guards behind guards; though his impious mansion strike its foundations deep to the centre, and rear its head above the clouds; though all the powers of hell combine on his side, I will search him out, I will penetrate into his most hidden recess. I can but die. Oh, if I am to be deprived of Imogen, how sweet, how solacing is the thought of death! Let me die in her cause. That were some comfort yet. Let me die in her presence, let her eyes witness the fervour of my attachment, and I will die without a groan."
Having thus poured forth the anguish of his bosom, he resumed the pursuit. But how could Edwin, alone, on foot, and wearied with the journey of the day, hope to overtake the winged steeds of Roderic? And indeed had his speed been tenfold greater than it was, it had been exerted to no purpose. As the ravisher arrived at the edge of the mountain, he struck into a narrow and devious path that led directly to his mansion. But Edwin, who had for some time lost sight of the chariot, took no notice of a way, covered with moss and overgrown with bushes; and pursued the more beaten road. Swift was his course; but the swifter he flew, the farther still he wandered from the object of his search. A rapid brook flowed across his path, which the descending rains had swelled into a river. Without a moment's hesitation, accoutered as he was, he plunged in. Instantly he gained the opposite bank, and divided the air before him, like an arrow in its flight.
In the mean time, the storm had ceased, the darkness was dispersed, and only a few thin and fleecy clouds were scattered over the blue expanse. The sun had for some time sunk beneath the western hills. The heavens, clear and serene, had assumed a deeper tint, and were spangled over with stars. The moon, in calm and silver lustre, lent her friendly light to the weary traveller. Edwin was fatigued and faint. He tried to give vent to his complaints; but his tongue cleaved to the roof of his mouth: his spirits sunk within him. No sound now reached his ears but the baying of the shepherds dogs, and the drowsy tinklings of the distant folds. The owl, the solemn bird of night, sat buried among the branches of the aged oak, and with her melancholy hootings gave an additional serenity to the scene. At a small distance, on his right hand, he perceived a contiguous object that reflected the rays of the moon, through the willows and the hazels, and chequered the view with a clear and settled lustre. He approached it. It was the lake of Elwy; and near it he discovered that huge pile of stones, so well known to him, which had been reared ages since, by the holy Druids. It was upon this spot that they worshipped the Gods. But they had no habitation near it. They repaired thither at stated intervals from the woods of Mona, and the shores of Arvon. One only Druid lived by the banks of the silver flood, and watched the temple day and night, that no rude hand might do violence to the sanctity of the place, and no profaner mortal, with sacrilegious foot might enter the mysterious edifice. It was surrounded with a wall of oaks. The humbler shrubs filled up their interstices, and there was no avenue to the sacred shade, except by two narrow paths on either side the lake.
The solemn stilness of the scene for a moment hushed the sorrows of Edwin into oblivion. Ah, short oblivion! scarcely had he gazed around him, and drank of the quietness and peace of the scene, ere those recent sorrows impressed his bosom with more anguish than before. Recollecting himself however, he trod the mead with nimble feet, and approached, trembling and with hesitation, to the eastern avenue. "Hear me, sage and generous Madoc," cried the shepherd, with a voice that glided along the peaceful lake, "hear the sorrows of the most forlorn of all the sons of Clwyd!" The hermit, who sat at the door of his grotto, perceived the sound, and approached to the place from which it proceeded. The accent was gentle; and he feared no boisterous intrusion. The accent was tender and pathetic; and never was the breast of Madoc steeled against the voice of anguish. "Approach, my son," he cried. "What disastrous event has brought thee hither, so far from thy peaceful home, and at this still and silent hour of night? Has any lamb wandered from thy fold, and art thou come hither in pursuit of it?" Edwin was silent. His heart seemed full almost to bursting, and he could not utter a word. "Hast thou wandered from thy companions and missed the path that led to the well-known hamlet?" "Alas," said Edwin, "I had a companion once!" and he lifted up his eyes to heaven in speechless despair. "Has thy mistress deserted thee, or have her parents bestowed her on some happier swain?" "Yes," said Edwin, "I have lost her, who was dear to me as the ruddy drops that visit my sad heart. But she was constant. Her parents approved of my passion, and consigned her to my arms." "Has sickness then overtaken her, or has untimely death put a period to thy prospects, just as they began to bloom?" "Oh, no," said the disconsolate shepherd, "I have encountered a disaster more comfortless and wasteful than sickness. I had a thousand times rather have received her last sigh, and closed her eyes in darkness!"
During this conversation, they advanced along the banks of Elwy, and drew towards the grotto of the hermit. The hospitable Madoc brought some dried fruits and a few roots from his cell, and spread them before his guest. He took a bowl of seasoned wood, and hastening to the fountain, that fell with a murmuring noise down the neighing [sic] rock, he presented the limpid beverage. "Such," said he, "is my humble fare; partake it with a contented heart, and it shall be more grateful to thy taste, than the high flavoured viands of a monarch." In the mean time, Madoc, pleased with the benevolent pursuit, gathered some bits of dry wood, and setting them on fire, besought the swain to refresh himself from the weariness of his travel, and the inclemency of the storm. But the heart of Edwin was too full to partake of the provisions that his attentive host had prepared. The chearfulness however of the blazing hearth and the generous officiousness of the hermit, seemed by degrees to recover him from the insensibility and lethargy, that for a time had swallowed up all his faculties.
Madoc had hitherto contemplated his guest in silence. He permitted him to refresh his wearied frame and to resume his dissipated spirits uninterrupted; he suppressed the curiosity by which he was actuated, to learn the story of the woes of Edwin. In the midst of his dejection, he perceived the symptoms of a nobility of spirit that interested him; and the anguish of the shepherd's mind had not totally destroyed the traces of that mild affability, and that manly frankness for which he was esteemed.
Edwin had no sooner appeared to shake off a small part of his melancholy, his eye no sooner sparkled with returning fire, than Madoc embraced the favourable omen. "My son," said he, "you seem to be full of dejection and grief. Grief is not an inmate of the plain; the hours of the shepherd are sped in gaiety and mirth. Suspicion and design are stranger to his bosom. With him the voice of discord is not heard. The scourge of war never blasted his smiling fields; the terror of invasion never banished him from the peaceful cot. You too are young and uninured even to the misfortunes of the shepherd. No contagion has destroyed your flock; no wolf has broken its slender barriers: you have felt the anguish of no wound, and been witness to the death of no friend. Say then, my son, why art thou thus dejected and forlorn?"
"Alas," replied Edwin, "our equal lot undoubtedly removes us from the stroke of many misfortunes; but even to us adversity extends its rod. I have been exposed to the ravages of an invader, more fearful than the wolf, more detested than the conqueror. From an affliction like mine, no occupation, no rank, no age can exempt. Sawest thou not the descending storm? Did not the rain beat upon thy cavern, and the thunder roar among the hills?" "It did," cried Madoc, "and I was struck with reverence, and worshipped the God who grasps the thunder in his mighty hand. Wast thou, my son, exposed to its fury?" "I was upon the bleak and wide extended heath. With Imogen, the fairest and most constant of the daughters of Clwyd, I returned from the feast of Ruthyn. But alas," added the shepherd, "the storm had no terrors, when compared with the scenes that accompanied it. I beheld, Madoc, nor are the words I utter the words of shameless imposition, or coward credulity; I beheld a phantom, that glided along the air, and rode among the clouds. At his command, a wolf from the forest, with horrid tusks, and eyes of fire, burst upon me. I advanced towards it, that I might defend the fairest of her sex from its fury, and plunged my javelin in its heart. But, oh! while I was thus engaged, a chariot advanced on the opposite side! Its course was directed by the spectre. The rider descended on the plain, and seized the spotless, helpless Imogen; and never, never shall these eyes behold her more! Such, O thou servant of the Gods, has been my adversity. The powers of darkness have arrayed themselves against me. For me the storm has been brewed; all the arrows of heaven have been directed against my weak, defenceless head. For me the elements have mixed in tremendous confusion; portents and prodigies have been accumulated for my destruction. Oh, then, generous and hospitable Druid, what path is there, that is left for my deliverance? What chance remains for me, now that a host of invisible beings combats against me? Teach me, my friend, my father, what it is that I must do. Tell me, is there any happiness in store for Edwin, or must I sink, unresisting, into the arms of comfortless despair?"
"My son," cried the venerable hermit, "hope is at all times our duty, and despair our crime. It is not in the power of events to undermine the felicity of the virtuous. Goblins, and spirits of darkness, are permitted a certain scope in this terrestrial scene; but their power is bounded; beyond a certain line they cannot wander. In vain do they threaten innocence and truth. Innocence is a wall of brass upon which they can make no impression. Virtue is an adamant that is sacred and secure from all their efforts. He whose thoughts are full of rectitude and heaven, who knows no guile, may wander in safety through uncultivated forests, or sandy plains, that have never known the trace of human feet. Before him the robber is just, and the satyr tame; for him the monsters of the desert are disarmed of their terrors, and he shall lead the wild boar and the wolf in his hand. Such is the sanctity that heaven has bestowed on unblemished truth."
"Alas, my father," cried Edwin, "this is the lesson that was first communicated to my childhood; and my infant heart bounded with the sacred confidence it inspired. But excuse the presumption of a distracted heart. This lesson, to which at another time I could have listened with rapture and enthusiasm, seems now too loose and general for a medicine to my woes. Innocence the Gods have made superior and invulnerable. And, oh, in what have I transgressed? Yet, my father, I am wounded in the tenderest part. Shall I ever recover my Imogen? Is she not torn from me irreversibly? How shall I engage with powers invisible, and supernatural? How shall I discover my unknown, human enemy? No, Madoc, I am lost in impenetrable darkness. For me there is no hope, no shadow of approaching ease."
"Be calm, my son," rejoined the anchorite. "Arrogance and impatience become not the weak and uninformed children of the earth. Be calm, and I will administer a remedy more appropriate to your wrongs. But remember this is your hour of trial. If now you forget the principles of your youth, and the instructions of the sacred Druids, you shall fall from happiness, never to regain it more. But if you come forth pure and unblemished from the fierce assay, your Imogen shall be yours, the Gods shall take you into their resistless protection, and in all future ages, when men would cite an example of distinguished felicity, they shall say, as fortunate as Edwin of the vale." Edwin bended his knee in mute submission.
"Listen, my son," continued the Druid. "I know your enemy, and can point out to you his obscure retreat." The shepherd lifted up his eyes, lately so languid, that now flashed with fire. He eagerly grasped the hand of Madoc. "Alas," continued the hermit, "to know him would little answer the purpose of thy bold and enterprising spirit. They adversary, as thou mayest have conjectured, is in league with the powers of darkness. Against them what can courage, what can adventure avail? They can unthread thy joints, and crumble all thy sinews. They can chain up thy limbs in marble. For how many perils, how many unforseen disasters ought he to be prepared, who dares to encounter them?"
"The name of him who has ravished from thee the dearest treasure of thy heart, is Roderic. His mother—attend, oh Edwin, for whatever the incredulous may pretend, the tales related by the bards in their immortal songs, of ghosts, and fairies, and dire enchantment, are not vain and fabulous.—You have heard of the inauspicious fame and the bad eminence of Rodogune. She withdrew from the fields of Clwyd within the memory of the elder of shepherds. Various were the conjectures occasioned by her disappearance. Some imagined, that for the haughtiness of her humour, and the malignity of her disposition, characters that were wholly unexampled in the pastoral life, she had been carried away before the period limited by nature to the place of torment by the goblins of the abyss. Others believed that she concealed herself in the top of the highest mountain that was near them, and by a commerce with invisible, malignant beings, still exercised the same gloomy temper in more potent, and therefore more inauspicious harm. The blight that overspread the meadows, the destructive contagion that diffused itself among the flocks, the raging tempest that rooted up the oak, when the thunder roared among the hills, and the lightning flashed from pole to pole, they ascribed to the machinations and the sorcery of Rodogune. Their conjectures indeed were blind, but their notions were not wholly mistaken.
"Rodogune was the mother of Roderic. She was deeply skilled in those dark and flagitious arts, which have cast a gloom upon this mortal scene. The intellectual powers bestowed upon her by the Gods were great and eminent, and were given for a far different purpose than to be employed in these sinister pursuits. But all conspicuous talents are liable, my son, to base perversion; and such was the fate of those of Rodogune. She delighted in the actions which her dark and criminal alliance with invisible powers enabled her to perform. It was her's to mislead the benighted shepherd. It was Sher's to part the happy lovers. For this purpose she would swell the waves, and toss the feeble bark. She dispensed, according to the dictates of her caprice, the mildew among the tender herb, and the pestilence among the folds of the shepherds. By the stupendous powers of enchantment, she raised from the bosom of a hill a wondrous edifice. The apartments were magnificent and stately; unlike the shepherd's cot, and not to be conceived by the imagination of the rustic. Here she accumulated a thousand various gratifications; here she wantoned in all the secret and licentious desires of her heart. But her castle was not merely a scene of thoughtless pleasure. Within its circle she held crouds of degenerate shepherds, groveling through the omnipotence of her incantations in every brutal form. Even the spectres and the elves that disobeyed her authority, she held in the severest durance. She compressed their tender forms in the narrowest prison, or gave them to the stormy winds, to be whirled, with restless violence, round about the ample globe. In a word, her mansion was one uninterrupted scene of ingenious cruelty and miserable despair. To be surrounded with the face of disappointment and agony was the happiness of Rodogune.
"When first by her art she raised that edifice which is now inhabited by her son, she had been desirous to conceal it from the prying eyes of the wanderer. In order to this, though it stood upon an eminence, she chose an eminence that was surrounded by higher hills, and hills which, according to the neighbouring shepherds, were impassable. No adventurous step had ever since the day they were created pierced beyond them. It was imagined that the space they surrounded was the haunt of elves, and the resort of those who held commerce with evil spirits. The curling smoke, which of late has frequently been seen to ascend from their bosom, has confirmed this tradition. And in order to render her habitation still more impervious, Rodogune surrounded it with a deep grove of oaks, whose thick branches entwined together, permitted no passage so much as to the light of day.
"Roderic was her only child, the darling of her age, and the central object of all her cares. At his birth the elves and the fairies were summoned together. They bestowed upon him every beauty of person and every subtlety of wit. To every weapon they made him invulnerable. And, without demanding from him that care and persevering study, that had planted wrinkles on his mother's brow, they gave him to enjoy his wishes instantly and uncontroled. One only goblin was daring enough to pronounce a curse upon him. 'WHEN RODERIC,' cried he, 'SHALL BE OVERREACHED IN ALL HIS SPELLS BY A SIMPLE SWAIN, UNVERSED IN THE VARIOUS ARTS OF SORCERY AND MAGIC: WHEN RODERIC SHALL SUE TO A SIMPLE MAID, WHO BY HIS CHARMS SHALL BE MADE TO HATE THE SWAIN THAT ONCE SHE LOVED, AND WHO YET SHALL RESIST ALL HIS PERSONAL ATTRACTIONS AND ALL HIS POWER; THEN SHALL HIS POWER BE AT AN END. HIS PALACES SHALL BE DISSOLVED, HIS RICHES SCATTERED, AND HE HIMSELF SHALL BECOME AN UNFITTED, NECESSITOUS, MISERABLE VAGABOND.' Such was the mysterious threat; and dearly did the threatner abide it. In the mean time, an elf more generous, more attached to Rodogune, and more potent than the rest, bestowed upon the infant a mysterious ring. By means of this he is empowered to assume what form he pleases. By means of this it was hoped he would be able to subdue the most prepossessed, and melt the most obdurate female heart. By means of this it was hoped, he might evade not only the simple swain, but all the wiles of the most experienced and subtle adversary.
"Roderic now increased in age, and began to exhibit the promises of that manly and graceful beauty that was destined for him. He inherited his mother's haughtiness, and his wishes and his passions were never subjected to contradiction. A few years since that mother died, and the youth has been too much engaged in voluptuousness and luxury to embark in the malicious pursuits of Rodogune, Sensuality has been his aim, and pleasure has been his God. To gratify his passions has been the sole object of his attentions; and he has remitted no exertion that could enhance to him the joys of the feast and the fruition of beauty. One low-minded gratification has succeeded to another; pleasures of an elevated and intellectual kind have been strangers to his heart; and were it not that the subtlety of wit was a gift bestowed upon him by supernatural existencies, he must long ere this have sunk his mind to the lowest savageness and the most contemptible imbecility."
Edwin heard the tale of the Druid with the deepest attention. He was interested in the information it contained; he was astonished at the unfathomable witcheries of Rodogune; and he could not avoid the being apprehensive of the unexpanded powers of Roderic. But the daring and adventurous spirit of youth, and the anxiety that he felt for the critical situation of Imogen, soon overpowered and obliterated these impressions. The Druid finished; and he started from his seat. "Point me, kind and generous Madoc, to the harbour of the usurper. I will invade his palace. I will enter fearlessly the lime-twigs of his spells. I will trust in the omnipotency of innocence. Though the magician should be encircled with all the horrid forms that ingenious fear ever created, though all the grizly legions of the infernal realm should hem in, I will find him out, and force him to relinquish his prize, or drag him by his shining hair to a death, ignominious and accursed, as has been the conduct of his life."
The Druid assumed a sterner and a severer aspect. "How long, son of the valley," cried he, "wilt thou be deaf to the voice of instruction? When wilt thou temper thy heedless and inconsiderate courage with the coolness of wisdom and the moderation of docility? But go," added he, "I am to blame to endeavour to govern thy headlong spirit, or stem the torrent of youthful folly. Go, and endure the punishment of thy rashness. Encounter the magician in the midst of his spells. Expose thy naked and unprotected head to glut his vengeance. Over thy life indeed, he has no power. Deliberate guilt, not unreflecting folly, can deprive thee of thy right to that. But, oh, shepherd, what avails it to live in hopeless misery? With ease he shall shut thee up for revolving years in darkness tangible; he shall plunge thee deep beneath the surface of the mantled pool, the viscous spume shall draw over thy miserable head its dank and dismal shroud; or perhaps, more ingenious in mischief, he shall chain thee up in inactivity, a conscious statue, the silent and passive witness of the usurped joys that once thou fondly fanciedst thy own."
"Oh, pardon me, sage and venerable Madoc," replied the shepherd. "Edwin did not come from the hands of nature obstinate and untractable. But grief agitates my spirits; anxiety and apprehension conjure up a thousand horrid phantoms before my distracted imagination, and I am no longer myself. I will however subdue my impatient resentments. I will listen with coolness to the voice of native sagacity and hoary experience. Tell me then, my father, and I will hearken with mute attention, nor think the lesson long,—instruct me how I shall escape those tremendous dangers thou hast described. Say, is there any remedy, canst thou communicate any potent and unconquerable amulet, that shall shield me from the arts of sorcery? Teach me, and my honest heart shall thank thee. Communicate it, and the benefit shall be consecrated in my memory to everlasting gratitude."