These facsimiles have been made from copies in the Yale University Library The Lay of Marie (In.B4645.816L) and the British Library Vignettes (Il642.bbb.36)
Reprint of the 1816 and 1818 eds.
THE LAY OF MARIE
VIGNETTES IN VERSE
with an introduction for the Garland edition by Donald H. Reiman
THE LAY OF MARIE: A POEM
To whom,—as Fancy, taking longer flight, With folded arms upon her heart's high swell, Floating the while in circles of delight, And whispering to her wings a sweeter spell Than she has ever aim'd or dar'd before— Shall I address this theme of minstrel lore? To whom but her who loves herself to roam Through tales of earlier times, and is at home With heroes and fair dames, forgotten long, But for romance, and lay, and lingering song? To whom but her, whom, ere my judgment knew, Save but by intuition, false from true, Seem'd to me wisdom, goodness, grace combin'd; The ardent heart; the lively, active mind? To whom but her whose friendship grows more dear, And more assur'd, for every lapsing year? One whom my inmost thought can worthy deem Of love, and admiration, and esteem!
As there is little, in all I have been able to collect respecting MARIE, which has any thing to do with the Poem, I have chosen to place such information at the end of the book, in form of an Appendix, rather than here; where the only things necessary to state are, that she was an Anglo-Norman Minstrel of the thirteenth century; and as she lived at the time of our losing Normandy, I have connected her history with that event: that the young king who sees her in his progress through his foreign possessions is our Henry III.; and the Earl William who steps forward to speak in her favour is William Longsword, brother to Richard Coeur de Lion. Perhaps there is no record of minstrels being called upon to sing at a feast in celebration of a victory which involves their own greatest possible misfortune; but such an incident is not of improbable occurrence. It is likely, also, that a woman, said to be more learned, accomplished, and pleasing, than was usually the case with those of her profession, might have a father, who, with the ardour, the disobedience, the remorse of his heroic master, had been, like him, a crusader and a captive; and in the after solitude of self-inflicted penitence, full of romantic and mournful recollections, fostered in the mind of his daughter, by nature embued with a portion of his own impassioned feelings, every tendency to that wild and poetical turn of thought which qualified her for a minstrel; and, after his death, induced her to become one.
* * * * *
The union of European and Eastern beauty, in the person of Marie, I have attempted to describe as lovely as possible. The consciousness of noble birth, of injurious depression, and the result of that education which absorbed the whole glowing mind of a highly gifted parent, a mind rich with adventures, with enthusiasm and tenderness, ought to be pourtrayed in her deportment; while the elegance and delicacy which more particularly distinguish the gentlewoman, would naturally be imbibed from a constant early association with a model of what the chivalrous spirit of the age could form, with all its perfections and its faults; in a situation, too, calculated still more to refine such a character; especially with one who was the centre of his affections and regrets, and whom he was so soon to leave unprotected. That, possessing all these advantages, notwithstanding her low station, she should be beloved by, and, on the discovery of her birth, married to a young nobleman, whose high favour with his sovereign would lead him to hope such an offence against the then royal prerogative of directing choice would be deemed a venial one, is, I should think, an admissible supposition.
* * * * *
That a woman would not be able to sing under such afflicting circumstances might be objected; but history shews us, scarcely any exertion of fortitude or despair is too great to be looked for in that total deprivation of all worldly interest consequent to such misfortunes. Whether that train of melancholy ideas which her own fate suggests is sufficiently removed from narration to be natural, or not near it enough to be clear, the judgment of others must determine. No wish or determination to have it one way or another, in sentiment, stile, or story, influenced its composition; though, occasionally, lines previously written are interwoven; and, in one instance, a few that have been published.
* * * * *
Her Twelve Lays are added in a second Appendix, as curious in themselves, and illustrative of the manners and morals of an age when they formed the amusement of the better orders.
THE LAY OF MARIE.
The guests are met, the feast is near, But Marie does not yet appear! And to her vacant seat on high Is lifted many an anxious eye. The splendid show, the sumptuous board, The long details which feuds afford, And discontent is prone to hold, Absorb the factious and the cold;— Absorb dull minds, who, in despair, The standard grasp of worldly care, Which none can quit who once adore— They love, confide, and hope no more; Seek not for truth, nor e'er aspire To nurse that immaterial fire, From whose most healthful warmth proceed Each real joy and generous deed; Which, once extinct, no toil or pain Can kindle into life again, To light the then unvarying eye, To melt, in question or reply, Those tones, so subtil and so sweet, That none can look for, none repeat; Which, self-impell'd, defy controul,— They bear the signet of the soul; And, as attendants of their flight, Enforce persuasion and delight.
Words that an instant have reclin'd Upon the pillow of the mind, Or caught, upon their rapid way, The beams of intellectual day, Pour fresh upon the thirsty ear, O'erjoy'd, and all awake to hear, Proof that in other hearts is known The secret language of our own. They to the way-worn pilgrim bring A draught from Rapture's sparkling spring; And, ever welcome, are, when given, Like some few scatter'd flowers from heaven; Could such in earthly garlands twine, To bloom by others less divine.
Where does this idle Minstrel stay? Proud are the guests, august the day; And princes of the realm attend The triumph of their sovereign's friend;— Triumph of stratagem and fight Gain'd o'er a young and gallant knight, Who, the last fort compell'd to yield, Perish'd, despairing, in the field.
The Norman Chief, whose sudden blow Had laid fair England's banner low; Spite of resistance firm and bold Secur'd the latest, surest hold Its sceptre touch'd across the main, Important, difficult to gain, Easy against her to retain;— Baron de Brehan—seem'd to stand An alien in his native land; One whom no social ties endear'd Except his child; and she appear'd Unconsciously to prompt his toil,— Unconsciously to take the spoil Of hate and treason; and, 'twas said, The pillage of a kinsman dead, Whom, for his large domain, he slew: 'Twas whisper'd only,—no one knew. At tale of murderous deed, his ear No startling summons seem'd to hear; Yet should some sudden theme intrude Of friend betray'd—ingratitude;— Or treacherous counsel—follies nurs'd In ardent minds, who, dying, curs'd The guileful author of their woes; His troubled look would then disclose Some secret anguish, inward care, Which mutely, sternly, said, Forbear!
He spake of policy and right, Of bold exploits in recent fight,— Of interest, and the common weal, Of distant empire, slow appeal. Skill'd to elicit thoughts unknown In other minds, and hide his own, His brighter eye, in darting round Their purposes and wishes found. Praises, and smiles, and promise play'd Around his speech; which yet convey'd No meaning, when, the moment past, Memory retold her stores at last.
Courtiers were there, the old and young, Of high and haughty lineage sprung; And jewell'd matrons: some had been, Erewhile, spectators of a scene Like this, with mien and manners gay; Who now, their hearts consum'd away, Held all the pageant in disdain, And seem'd to smile and speak with pain. Of such were widows, who deplor'd Husbands long lost, but still ador'd; To grace their children, fierce and proud, Like martyrs led into the crowd: Mothers, their sole remaining stay, In some dear son, late snatch'd away; Whose duty made them better brook Their lords' high tone and careless look; Whose praises had awaken'd pride In bosoms dead to all beside.
Warriors, infirm with battles grown, Were there, in languid grandeur thrown On the low bench, who seem'd to say, "Our mortal vigour wanes away;" And gentle maid, with aspect meek, While cloud-like blushes cross her cheek, Restless awaits the Minstrel's power To dispossess the present hour, And by a spirit-seizing charm, Her thoughts employ, her fancy warm, And snatch her from the mute distress Of conscious, breathless bashfulness.
Young knights, who never tamely wait, Crowd in the porch, or near the gate, By quick return, and sudden throng, Announcing the expected song.
The Minstrel comes, and, by command, Before the nobles of the land, In her poor order's simple dress, Grac'd only by the native tress, A flowing mass of yellow'd light, Whose bold swells gleam with silver bright, And dove-like shadows sink from sight. Those long, soft locks, in many a wave Curv'd with each turn her figure gave; Thick, or if threatening to divide, They still by sunny meshes hide; Eluding, by commingling lines, Whatever severs or defines.
Amid the crowd of beauties there, None were so exquisitely fair; And, with the tender, mellow'd air, The taper, flexile, polish'd limb, The form so perfect, yet so slim, And movement, only thought to grace The dark and yielding Eastern race; As if on pure and brilliant day Repose, as soft as moonlight, lay.
Reluctant still she seem'd,—her feet Sought slowly the appointed seat: Her hand, oft lifting to her head, She lightly o'er her forehead spread; Then the unconscious motion check'd, And, struggling with her own neglect, Seem'd as she but by effort found The presence of an audience round.
Meanwhile the murmurings died away Which spake impatience of delay: A pitying wonder, new and kind, Arose in each beholder's mind: They saw no scorn to meet reproof, No arrogance to keep aloof; Her air absorb'd, her sadden'd mien, Combin'd the mourning, captive queen, With her who at the altar stands To raise aloft her spotless hands, In meek and persevering prayer, For such as falter in despair. All that was smiling, bright, and gay, Youth's show of triumph during May, Its roseate crown, was snatch'd away! Yet sorrows, which had come so soon, Like tender morning dew repos'd, O'er hope and joy as softly clos'd As moist clouds on the light at noon.
Opprest by some heart-withering pang, Upon her harp she seem'd to hang Awhile o'erpower'd—then faintly sang:
"Demand no lay of long-past times; Of foreign loves, or foreign crimes; Demand no visions which arise To Rapture's eager, tearless eyes! Those who can travel far, I ween, Whose strength can reach a distant scene, And measure o'er large space of ground, Have not, like me, a deadly wound! Near home, perforce, alas, I stray, Perforce pursue my destin'd way, Through scenes where all my trouble grows, And where alone remembrance flows. Like evening swallows, still my wings Float round in low, perpetual rings; But never fold the plume for rest One moment in the tranquil nest; And have no strength to reach the skies, No power, no hope, no wish to rise!
"Blame me not, Fancy, if I now restrain Thy wandering footsteps, now thy wings confine; Tis the decree of Fate,—it is not mine! For I would let thee free and widely stray— Would follow gladly, tend thee on thy way, And never of the devious track complain, Never thy wild and sportive flights disdain! Though reasonless those graceful moods may be, They still, alas! were passing sweet to me.
"Unhappy that I am, compell'd to bind This murmuring captive! one who ever strove By each endearing art to win my love; Who, ever unoffending, ever bright, Danc'd in my view, and pleas'd me to delight! She scatter'd showers of lilies on my mind; For, oh! so fair, so fresh, and so refin'd, Her child-like offerings, without thorns to pain, Without one canker'd wound, or earthly stain.
"And, darling! as my trembling fingers twine Those fetters round thee, they are wet with tears! For the sweet playmate of my early years I cannot thus afflict, nor thus resign My equal liberty, and not repine! For I had made thee, infant as thou art, Queen of my hopes, my leisure, and my heart; Given thee its happiest laugh, its sweetest tear, And all I found or conquer'd every year.
"I blame me now I let thy sports offend Old Time, and laid thy snare within his path To make him falter, as it often hath; For he grew angry soon, and held his breath, And hurried on, in frightful league with Death, To make the way through which my footsteps bend, Late rich in all that social scenes attend, A desert; and with thee I droop, I die, Beneath the look of his malignant eye.
"Me do triumphant heroes call To grace with harp their festal hall? O! must my voice awake the song?— My skill the artful tale prolong? Yes! I am call'd—it is my doom! Unhappily, ye know not whom, Nor what, impatient ye demand! How hostile now the fever'd hand, Across these chords unwilling thrown, To echo plainings of my own! Little indeed can ye divine What song ye ask who call for mine!
"Till now, before the courtly crowd I humbly and I gaily bow'd; The blush was not to shame allied Which on my glowing cheek I wore; No lowly seemings pain'd nay pride, My heart was laughing at the core; And sometimes, as the stream of song Bore me with eddying haste along, My father's spirit would arise, And speak strange meaning from these eyes, At which a conscious cheek would quail, A stern and lofty bearing fail: Then could a chieftain condescend In me to recognize his friend! Then could a warrior low incline His eye, when it encounter'd mine! A tone can make the guilty start! A glance can pierce the conscious heart, Encountering memory in its flight, Most waywardly! Such wounds are slight; But I withdraw the painful light!
"Fair lords and princes! many a time For you I wove my pictur'd rhyme; Refin'd new thoughts and fancies crude In deep and careful solitude; 'And, when my task was finish'd, came To seek the meed of praise or blame; While, even then, untir'd I strove To serve beneath the yoke of love. Whene'er I mark'd a fearful look, When pride, or when resentment, spoke, I bent the tenor of my strain, And trembled lest it were in vain. By many an undiscover'd wile I brought the pallid lip to smile, Clear'd the maz'd thought for ampler scope, Sustain'd the flagging wings of hope; And threw a mantle over care Such as the blooming Graces wear! I made the friend resist his pride, Scarce aiming what he felt to hide From other eyes, his own implor'd That kindness were again restor'd. As generous themes engag'd my tongue In pleadings for the fond and young: Towards his child the father leant, In fast-subsiding discontent: I made that father's claims be felt, And saw the rash, the stubborn, melt; Nay, once, subdued, a rebel knelt.
"Thus skill'd, from pity's warm excess, The aching spirit to caress; Profuse of her ideal wealth, And rich in happiness and health, An alien, class'd among the poor, Unheeded, from her precious store, Its best and dearest tribute brought; The zeal of high, adventurous thought, The tender awe in yielding aid, E'en of its own soft hand afraid! Stealing, through shadows, forth to bless, Her venturous service knew no bound; Yet shrank, and trembled, when success Its earnest, fullest wishes crown'd! This alien sinks, opprest with woe, And have you nothing to bestow? No language kind, to sooth or cheer?— No soften'd voice,—no tender tear?— No promise which may hope impart? No fancy to beguile the heart; To chace those dreary thoughts away, And waken from this deep dismay!
"Is it that station, power, or pride, Can human sympathies divide? Or is she deem'd a thing of art, Form'd only to enact a part, Whose nice perceptions all belong To modulated thought and song, And, in fictitious feeling thrown, Lie waste or callous in her own?
"Is it from poverty of soul; Or does some fear some doubt, controul? So round the heart strong fibres strain, That it attempts to beat in vain? Does palsy on your feelings hang, Deaden'd by some severer pang? If so, behold, my eyes o'erflow! For, O! that anguish well I know! When once that fatal stroke is given,— When once that finest nerve is riven, Our love, our pity, all are o'er; We even sooth ourselves no more!
"Back, hurrying feelings! to the time I learnt to clothe my thoughts in rhyme! When, climbing up my father's knees, I gaily sang, secure to please! Rounded his pale and wasted cheek, And won him, in his turn, to speak: When, for reward, I closer prest, And whisper'd much, and much carest; With timorous eye, and head aside, Half ask'd, and laugh'd, and then denied; Ere I again petition made To hear the often-told crusade. How, knowing hardship but by name, Misled by friendship and by fame, His parents' wishes he disdain'd, With zeal, nor real quite, nor feign'd; And fought on many a famous spot;— The suffering of a captive's lot; My Georgian mother's daring flight; The day's concealment, march by night; Her death, when, touching Christian ground, They deem'd repose and safety found: How, on his arm, by night and day, I, then a happy infant, lay, And taught him not to mourn, but pray. How, when, at length, he reach'd his home, His heart foretold a gentle doom; With tears of fondness in his eyes, Hoping to cause a glad surprize; Full of submission, pondering o'er What he too lightly priz'd before; The curse with tenfold vengeance fell.— Those who had lov'd him once so well, In whose indulgence perfect trust Had still been wise, though most unjust, Were in the grave!—Their hearts were cold! His penitence might still be told— Told to the winds! for few would hear, Or, hearing, deem that tale sincere His patrimony's lord denied, Who, hardening in possession's pride, Affirm'd the rightful owner died.
"A victim from devouring strife, And slavery, return'd with life; Possessions, honours, parents gone, The very hand that urg'd him on, Now, by its stern repelling, tore The veil that former falsehood wore!
"When he first bar'd his heart before thy view, Told all its inmost beatings—told them true; Nay, e'en the pulse, the secret, trembling thrill, On which the slightest touch alone would trill [Errata: kill]; While thou, with secret aim, collected art, Didst wind around that bold, confiding heart, And, in its warm and healthful breathings fling A subtle poison, and a deadly sting!
"Where shall we else so fell a traitor find? The wilful, hard misleader of the blind And what can be the soul-perverter's meed, Plotting to lure his friend to such a deed, As made self-hatred on the conscience lay That heavy weight she never moves away? O! where the good man's inner barriers close 'Gainst the world's cruel judgments, and his foes Enfolding truth, and prayer, and soul's repose, Thine is a mournful numbness, or a din, For many strong accusers lurk within!
"And, since this fatal period, in thine eyes A shrewd and unrelaxing witness lies; While, on the specious language of the tongue, Deceit has hateful, warning accents hung; And outrag'd nature, struggling with a smile, Announces nought but discontent and guile; Each trace of fair, auspicious meaning flown, All that makes man by man belov'd and known. Silence, indignant thought! forego thy sway! Silence! and let me measure on my way!
"Soul-struck, and yielding to his fate, My father left his castle gate. 'Thou,' he would cry, with flowing eyes, 'That moment wert the sacrifice! Little, alas! avails to thee Wealth, honours, titles, ancestry; All lost by me! I dar'd to lift On high thy welfare, as a gift! To save thee, dearest, dar'd resign Thy worldly good! it was not mine! But, O! I felt around thee twin'd My very self,—my heart and mind! All that may chance is dead to me, Save only as it touches thee! Could self-infliction but atone For one who lives in thee alone; If my repentance and my tears Could spare thy future smiling years, The fatal curse should only rest Upon this firm, though guilty breast? Yet, tendering from thy vessel's freight Offerings of such exceeding weight, And free thee from one earthly chain! Envy and over-weening hate Would on thy orphan greatness wait; Folly that supple nature bend For parasites to scorn thy friend; And pamper'd vanity incline To wilful blindness such as mine!
"'Thee to the altar yet I bring! Hear me, my Saviour and my King! Again I for my child resign All worldly good! but make her thine! Let her soft footsteps gently move, Nor waken grief, nor injure love; Carelessly trampling on the ground That priceless gem, so rarely found; That treasure, which, should angels guard, Would all their vigilance reward!
"'My mind refuses still to fear She should be cold or insincere; That aught like meanness should debase One of our rash and wayward race, No! most I dread intemperate pride, Deaf ardour, reckless, and untried, With firm controul and skilful rein, Its hurrying fever to restrain!
"'Others might wish their soul's delight Should be most lovely to the sight; And beauty vainly I ador'd, Serv'd with my eye, my tongue, my sword; Nay, let me not from truth depart! Enshrin'd and worship'd it at heart. Oft, when her mother fix'd my gaze, Enwrapt, on bright perfection's blaze, Hopes the imperious spell beguil'd, Transcendant thus to see my child: But now, for charms of form or face, Save only purity and grace; Save sweetness, which all rage disarms, Would lure an infant to her arms In instantaneous love; and make A heart, like mine, with fondness ache; I little care, so she be free From such remorse as preys on me!'
"My dearest father!—Yet he grew Profoundly anxious, as he knew More of the dangers lurking round; But I was on enchanted ground! Delighted with my minstrel art, I had a thousand lays by heart; And while my yet unpractis'd tongue Descanted on the strains I sung, Still seeking treasure, like a bee, I laugh'd and caroll'd, wild with glee!
"Delicious moments then I knew, When the rough winds against me blew: When, from the top of mountain steep, I glanc'd my eye along the deep; Or, proud the keener air to breathe, Exulting saw the vale beneath. When, launch'd in some lone boat, I sought A little kingdom for my thought, Within a river's winding cove, Whose forests form a double grove, And, from the water's silent flow, Appear more beautiful below; While their large leaves the lilies lave, Or plash upon the shadow'd wave; While birds, with darken'd pinions, fly Across that still intenser sky; Fish, with cold plunge, with startling leap, Or arrow-flight across the deep; And stilted insects, light-o-limb, Would dimple o'er the even brim; If, with my hand, in play, I chose The cold, smooth current to oppose, As fine a spell my senses bound As vacant bosom ever found!
"And when I took my proudest post, Near him on earth I valued most, (No after-time could banish thence A father's dear pre-eminence,) And felt the kind, protecting charm, The clasp of a paternal arm; Felt, as instinctively it prest, The sacred magnet of his breast, 'Gainst which I lean'd, and seem'd to grow, With that deep fondness none can know, Whom Providence does not assign A parent excellent as mine! That faith beyond, above mistrust, That gratitude, so wholly just, Each several, crowding claim forgot, Whose source was light, without a blot; No moment of unkindness shrouding, No speck of anger overclouding: An awful and a sweet controul, A rainbow arching o'er the soul; A soothing, tender thrill, which clung Around the heart, while, all unstrung, The thought was still, and mute the tongue!
"O! in that morn of life is given To one so tun'd, a sumptuous dower! Joys, which have flown direct from heaven, And Graces, captive in her bower.
"Thoughts which can sail along the skies, Or poise upon the buoyant air; And make a peasant's soul arise A monarch's mighty power to share.
"When all that we perceive below, By land or sea, by night or day, The past, the future, and the flow Of present times, their tribute pay.
"Each bird, from cleft, from brake, or bower, Bears her a blessing on its wings; And every rich and precious flower Its fragrance on her spirit flings.
"There's not a star that shines above But pours on her a partial ray; Endearments, like maternal love, Her love to Nature's self repay.
"Faith, Hope, and Joy about her heart, Close interlace the angel arm; And with caresses heal the smart Of every care, and every harm.
"Amid the wealth, amid the blaze Of luxury and pomp around, How poor is all the eye surveys To what we know of fairy ground!"
She ceases, and her tears flow fast— O! can this fit of softness last, Which, so unlook'd for, comes to share The sickly triumph of despair? Upon the harp her head is thrown, All round is like a vision flown; And o'er a billowy surge her mind Views lost delight left far behind.
THE LAY OF MARIE.
Some, fearing Marie's tale was o'er, Lamented that they heard no more; While Brehan, from her broken lay, Portended what she yet might say. As the untarrying minutes flew, More anxious and alarm'd he grew. At length he spake:—"We wait too long The remnant of this wilder'd song! And too tenaciously we press Upon the languor of distress! 'Twere better, sure that hence convey'd, And in some noiseless chamber laid, Attentive care, and soothing rest, Appeas'd the anguish of her breast."
Low was his voice, but Marie heard: He hasten'd on the thing he fear'd. She rais'd her head, and, with deep sighs, Shook the large tear-drops from her eyes; And, ere they dried upon her cheek, Before she gather'd force to speak, Convulsively her fingers play'd, While his proud heart the prelude met, Aiming at calmness, though dismay'd, A loud, high measure, like a threat; Soon sinking to that lower [Errata: slower] swell Which love and sorrow know so well.
"How solemn is the sick man's room To friends or kindred lingering near! Poring on that uncertain gloom In silent heaviness and fear!
"How sad, his feeble hand in thine, The start of every pulse to share! With painful haste each wish divine, Yet fed the hopelessness of care!
"To turn aside the full-fraught eye, Lest those faint orbs perceive the tear! To bear the weight of every sigh, Lest it should reach that wakeful ear!
"In the dread stillness of the night, To lose the faint, faint sound of breath! To listen in restrain'd affright, To deprecate each thought of death!
"And, when a movement chas'd that fear, And gave thy heart-blood leave to flow, In thrilling awe the prayer to hear Through the clos'd curtain murmur'd low!
"The prayer of him whose holy tongue Had never yet exceeded truth! Upon whose guardian care had hung The whole dependence of thy youth!
"Who, noble, dauntless, frank and mild, Was, for his very goodness, fear'd; Belov'd with fondness like a child, And like a blessed saint rever'd!
"I have known friends—but who can feel The kindness such a father knew? I serv'd him still with tender zeal, But knew not then how much was due!
"And did not Providence ordain That we should soon be laid as low, No heart could such a stroke sustain,— No reason could survive the blow!
"After that fatal trial came, The world no longer was the same. I still had pleasures:—who could live Without the healing aid they give? But, as a plant surcharg'd with rain, When radiant sunshine comes again, Just wakes from a benumbing trance, I caught a feverish, fitful glance. The dove, that for a weary time Had mourn'd the rigour of the clime, And, with its head beneath its wing, Awaited a more genial spring, Went forth again to search around, And some few leaves of olive found, But not a bower which could impart Its interchange of light and shade; Not that soft down, to warm the heart, Of which her former nest was made. Smooth were the waves, the ether clear, Yet all was desert, cold, and drear!
"Affection, o'er thy clouded sky In flocks the birds of omen fly; And oft the wandering harpy, Care, Must thy delicious viands share: But all the soul's interior light, All that is soothing, sweet, and bright, All fragrance, softness, colour, glow, To thee, as to the sun, we owe!
"Years past away! swift, varied years! I learnt the luxury of tears; And all the orphan's wretched lot, 'Midst those she pleas'd and serv'd, forgot.
"By turns applauded and despis'd, Till one appear'd who duly priz'd; Bound round my heart a welcome chain, And earthward lur'd its hopes again; When, careless of all worldly weal, By Fancy only taught to feel, My raptur'd spirit soar'd on high, With momentary power to fly; Or sang its deep, indignant moan, With swells of anguish, when alone.
"Yet lovely dreams could I evoke Of future happiness and fame— I did not bow to kiss the yoke, But welcom'd every joy that came.
"Often would self-complacence spread Harmonious halos round my head; And all my being own'd awhile The warm diffusion of her smile.
"One morn they call'd me forth to sing Fore our then liege, the English king. Thy guest, my Lord de Semonville, His gracious presence was the seal Of favour to a servant true, To boasted faith and fealty due!
"It never suits a royal ear Prowess of foreign lands to hear; And, leaving tales of Charlemagne For British Arthur's earlier reign, I, preluding with praise, began The feats of that diviner man; Let loose my soul in fairy land, Gave wilder licence to my hand; And, learn'd in chivalrous renown, By song and story handed down, Painted my knights from those around, But placed them on poetic ground. The ample brow, too smooth for guile; The careless, fearless, open smile; The shaded and yet arching eye, At once reflective, kind, and shy; The undesigning, dauntless look,— Became to me a living book. I read the character conceal'd, Flash'd on by chance, or never known Even to bosoms like its own; Shrinking before a step intrude; Touch, look, and whisper, all too rude; Unsunn'd and fairest when reveal'd! The first in every noble deed, Most prompt to venture and to bleed! Such hearts, so veil'd with angel wings, Such cherish'd, tender, sacred things, I since discover'd many a time, O Britain! in thy temper'd clime; In dew, in shade, in silence nurs'd, For truth and sentiment athirst.
"As seas, with rough, surrounding wave, Islands of verdant freshness save From rash intruder's waste and spoil;— As mountains rear their heads on high, Present snow summits to the sky, And weary patient feet with toil, To screen some sweet, secluded vale, And warm the air its flowers inhale;— Reserve warns off approaching eyes From where her choicer Eden lies.
"Such are the English knights, I cried, Who all their better feelings hide; Who muffle up their hearts with care, To hide the virtues nestling there, Who neither praise nor blame can bear.
"My hearers, though completely steel'd For all the terrors of the field; Mail'd for the arrow and the lance, Bore not unharm'd my smiling glance; At other times collected, brave, Recoiled when I that picture gave; As if their inmost heart, laid bare, Shrank from the bleak, ungenial air.
"Proud of such prescience, on I went;— The youthful monarch was content. 'Edgar de Langton, take this ring— No! hither the young Minstrel bring: Ourself can better still dispense The honour and the recompence.' I came, and, trembling, bent my knee. He wonder'd that my looks were meek, That blushes burnt upon my cheek! 'We would our little songstress see! Remove those tresses! raise thy head! Say, where is former courage fled, 'That all must now thy face infold? At distance they were backward roll'd. Whence, then, this most unfounded fear? Are we so strange, so hateful here?'
"I strove in vain to lift my eyes, And made some indistinct replies; When one, more courteous and more kind, Stepp'd forth to save my fainting mind. 'My liege, have pity! for, in truth, It is too hard upon her youth. Though so alert and fleet in song, The strain was high, the race was long; And she before has never seen A monarch, save the fairy queen: But does the lure of thought obey As falcons their appointed way; Train'd to one end, and wild as those If aught they know not interpose. Vain then is strength, and skill is vain, Either to lead them or restrain. The eye-lid closes, and the heart, Low-sinking, plays a traitor's part; While wings, of late so firmly spread, Hang flagg'd and powerless as the dead! With courts familiar from our birth, Is it fit subject for our mirth, That thus awakening from her theme, Where she through air and sea pursues, And all things governs, all subdues, (Like fetter'd captive in a dream,) Blindly to tread on unknown land, Without a guide or helping hand, No previous usage to befriend, (As well we might an infant lend Our eyes' experience, ear, or touch!) Can we in reason wonder much, Her steps are tottering and unsure Where we have learnt to walk secure? Is it not true, what I have told?' Her paus'd, my features to behold— Earl William paus'd: across his mien A strong and sudden change was seen, The courtier bend, protecting tone. And smile of sympathy, were gone. Abrupt his native accents broke, And his lips trembled as he spoke.
"'How thus can Memory, in its flight, On wings of gossamer alight, Nor showing aim, nor leaving trace, From a poor damsel's living face To features of a brave, dead knight! In eyes so young, and so benign, What is it speaks of Palestine? Of toils in early life I prov'd, And of a comrade dearly lov'd! 'Tis true, he, like this maid, was young, And gifted with a tuneful tongue! His looks [Errata: locks], like her's, were bright and fair, But light and laughing was his eye; The prophecy of future care In those thin, helmet lids we spy, Veiling mild orbs, of changeful hue, Where auburn half subsides in blue! Lord Fauconberg, canst thou divine What is the curve, or what the line, That makes this girl, like lightning, send Looks of our long lamented friend? If Richard liv'd, that sorcery spell Quickly his lion-heart would quell: He never could her glance descry, And any wish'd-for boon deny! She's weeping too!—most strangely wrought By workings of another's thought! She knows no English; yet I speak That language, and her paling cheek With watery floods is overcast.— Fair maid, we talk of times long past; A friend we often mourn in vain— A knight in distant battle slain, Whose bones had moulder'd in the earth Full many a year before thy birth. He fed our ears with songs of old, And one was of a heart of gold,— A native ditty I would fain, But never yet could hear again. It spoke of friendship like his own, Once only in existence known. My prime of life the blessing crost, And with it life's first charm I lost!'
"'Chieftain, allow me, on my knee To sing that English song to thee! For then I never dare to stand, Nor take the harp within my hand; Sacred it also is to me! And it should please thy fancy well, Since dear the lips from whence it fell; 'And dear the language which conveys The only theme of real praise! O! if in very truth thou art A mourner for that loyal heart, A lowly minstrel maid forgive, Who strives to make remembrance live!'
"'Betimes my heritage was sold To buy this heart of solid gold. Ye all, perchance, have jewels fine, But what are such compar'd to mine? O! they are formal, poor, and cold, And out of fashion when they're old;— But this is of unchanging ore, And every day is valued more. Not all the eye could e'er behold Should purchase back this heart of gold.
"'How oft its temper has been tried! Its noble nature purified! And still it from the furnace came Uninjur'd by the subtil flame. Like truth itself, pale, simple, pure, Yielding, yet fitted to endure,— No rust, no tarnish can arise, To hide its lustre from our eyes; And this world's choicest gift I hold, While I can keep my heart of gold.
"'Whatever treasure may be lost, Whatever project may be crost, Whatever other boon denied, The amulet I long have tried Has still a sweet, attractive power To draw the confidential hour,— That hour for weakness and for grief, For true condolement, full belief! O! I can never feel bereft, While one possession shall be left; That which I now in triumph hold, This dear, this cherish'd heart of gold!
"'Come, all who wish to be enroll'd! Our order is, the heart of gold. The vain, the artful, and the nice, Can never pay the weighty price; For they must selfishness abjure, Have tongue, and hand, and conscience pure; Suffering for friendship, never grieve, But, with a god-like strength, believe In the oft absent power of truth, As they have seen it in their youth. Ye who have grown in such a mould Are worthy of the heart of gold!'
"Ceasing, and in the act to rise, A voice exclaim'd, 'Receive the prize! Earl William, let me pardon crave, Thus yielding what thy kindness gave! But with such strange, intense delight, This maiden fills my ear, my sight; I long so ardently to twine In her renown one gift of mine; That having but a die to cast, Lest our first meeting prove our last, I would ensure myself the lot Not to be utterly forgot! And this, my offering, here consign, Worthy, because it once was thine! Then, maiden, from a warrior deign To take this golden heart and chain! Thy order's emblem! and afar Its light shall lead me, like a star! If thou, its mistress, didst requite With guerdon meet each chosen knight; If from that gifted hand there came A badge of such excelling fame, The broider'd scarf might wave in vain, Unenvied might a rival gain, Amid assembled peers, the crown Of tournay triumph and renown; For me its charm would all be gone, E'en though a princess set it on!'
"I bow'd my thanks, and quick withdrew, Glad to escape from public view; Laden with presents, and with praise, Beyond the meed of former days. But that on which I gaz'd with pride, Which I could scarcely lay aside, Even to close my eyes for rest; (I wear it now upon my breast, And there till death it shall remain!) Was this same golden heart and chain! The peacock crown, with all its eyes, Its emerald, jacinth, sapphire dyes, When first, irradiate o'er my brow, Wav'd its rich plumes in gleaming flow, Did not so deep a thrill impart, So soften, so dilate my heart! No praise had touch'd me, as it fell, Like his, because I saw full well, Honour and sweetness orb'd did lie Within the circlet of his eye! Integrity which could not swerve, A judgment of that purer nerve, Fearing itself, and only bound By truth and love to all around: Which dared not feign, and scorn'd to vaunt, Nor interest led, nor power could daunt; Acting as if it mov'd alone In sight of the Almighty's throne.
"His graceful form my Fancy caught,— It was the same she always brought, When legends mentioned knights of old, The courteous, eloquent, and bold. The same dark locks his forehead grac'd, A crown by partial Nature plac'd, With the large hollows, and the swells, And short, close, tendril twine of shells. Though grave in aspect, when he smil'd, 'Twas gay and artless as a child, With him expression seem'd a law,— You only Nature's dictates saw; But they in full perfection wrought Of generous feeling, varied thought,— All that can elevate or move, That we admire, esteem, and love!
"Thus, when it pleas'd the youthful king, Who wish'd yet more to hear me sing, That I should follow o'er the main, In good Earl William's sober train, As slow we linger'd on the seas, I inly blest each wayward breeze; For still the graceful knight was near, Prompt to discourse, relate, and hear: The spirit had that exercise, The fine perceptions' play, That perish with the worldly wise, The torpid, and the gay.
"In the strings of their lyres as the poets of old Fresh blossoms were used to entwine; As the shrines of their gods were enamell'd with gold, And sparkling with gems from the mine:
"So, grac'd with delights that arise in the mind, As through flowers, the language should flow! While the eye, where we fancy all soul is enshrin'd, With divine emanations should glow!
"The voice, or the look, gifted thus, has a charm Remembrance springs onward to greet; And thought, like an angel, flies, living and warm, When announcing the moment to meet!
"And it was thus when Eustace spoke, Thus brightly his ideas glanc'd, Met mine, and smil'd as they advanc'd, For all his fervour I partook,— Pour'd out my spirit in each theme, And follow'd every waking dream! Now in Fancy's airy play, Near at hand, and far away, All that was sportive, wild, and gay! Now led by Pity to deplore Hearts that can ache and bleed no more, We roam'd long tales of sadness o'er! Now, prompted by achievements higher, We caught the hero's, martyr's fire! Who, listening to an angel choir, Rapt and devoted, following still Where duty or religion led, The mind prepar'd, subdued the will, Bent their grand purpose to fulfil: Conquer'd, endur'd, or meekly bled! Nor wonder'd we, for we were given, Like them, to zeal, to truth, and heaven.
"Receding silently from view, Freedom, unthought of, then withdrew; We neither mark'd her as she flew, Nor ever had her absence known From care or question of our own. At court, emotion or surprize Reveal'd the truth to other eyes. The pride of England's nobles staid Too often near the minstrel maid; And many in derision smil'd, To see him pay a peasant's child, For such they deem'd me, deep respect, While birth and grandeur met neglect. Soon, sway'd by duty more than wealth, He listen'd and he look'd by stealth; And I grew careless in my lays; Languish'd for that exclusive praise. Yet, conscious of an equal claim, Above each base or sordid aim, From wounded feeling and from pride, My pain I coldly strove to hide: And when, encounter'd by surprize, Rapture rose flashing in his eyes, My formal speech and careless air Would call a sudden anger there.
"Reserv'd and sullen we became, Tenacious both, and both to blame. Yet often an upbraiding look Controul'd the sentence as I spoke; Prompt and direct its flight arose, But sunk or waver'd at the close. Often, beneath his softening eye, I felt my resolution die; And, half-relentingly, forgot His splendid and my humble lot.
"Sometimes a sudden fancy came, That he who bore my father's name, Broken in spirit and in health, Was weary of ill-gotten wealth. I to the cloister saw him led, Saw the wide cowl upon his head; Heard him, in his last dying hour, Warn others from the thirst of power; Adjure the orphan of his friend Pardon and needful aid to lend, If heaven vouchsaf'd her yet to live; For, could she pity and forgive, 'Twould wing his penitential prayer With better hope of mercy there! Then did he rank and lands resign, With all that was in justice mine; And I, pretending to be vain, Return'd the world its poor disdain, But smil'd on Eustace once again!
"Thus vision after vision flew, Leaving again before my view That [Errata: The] hollow scene, the scornful crowd, To which that heart had never bow'd, Whose tenderness I hourly fed; While thus I to its nursling said;—
"Be silent, Love! nor from my lip In faint or hurried language speak! Be motionless within my eye, And never wander to my cheek! Retir'd and passive thou must be, Or truly I shall banish thee!
"Thou art a restless, wayward sprite, So young, so tender, and so fair, I dare not trust thee from my sight, Nor let thee breathe the common air! Home to my heart, then, quickly flee, It is the only place for thee!
"And hush thee, sweet one! in that cell, For I will whisper in thine ear Those tales that Hope and Fancy tell, Which it may please thee best to hear! I will not, may not, set thee free— I die if aught discover thee!"
Where are the plaudits, warm and long, That erst have follow'd Marie's song? The full assenting, sudden, loud, The buz of pleasure in the crowd! The harp was still, but silence reign'd, Listening as if she still complain'd: For Pity threw her gentle yoke Across Impatience, ere he spoke; And Thought, in pondering o'er her strains, Had that cold state he oft maintains. But soon the silence seem'd to say, "Fair mourner, reassume thy lay!" And in the chords her fingers stray'd; For aching Memory found relief In mounting to the source of grief; A tender symphony she play'd, Then bow'd, and thus, unask'd, obey'd.
The Lay of Marie
"Careless alike who went or came, I seldom ask'd the stranger's name, When such a being came in view As eagerly the question drew. 'The Lady Osvalde,' some one cried, 'Sir Eustace' late appointed bride, His richest ward the king's behest Gives to the bravest and the best.'
"Enchantments, wrought by pride and fear, Made me, though mute, unmov'd appear. My eye was quiet, and the while My lip maintain'd a steady smile. It cost me much, alas! to feign; But while I struggled with the pain, With beauty stole upon my sight An inward feeling of delight.
"Long did the silken lashes lie Upon a dark and brilliant eye; Bright the wild rose's finest hue O'er a pure cheek of ivory flew. Her smile, all plaintive and resign'd, Bespake a gentle, suffering mind; And e'en her voice, so clear and faint, Had something in it of complaint. Her delicate and slender form, Like a vale-lily from the storm, Seem'd pensively to shrink away, More timid in a crowd so gay. Large jewels glitter'd in her hair; And, on her neck, as marble fair, Lay precious pearls, in countless strings; Her small, white hands, emboss'd with rings, Announc'd high rank and amplest wealth, But neither freedom, power, nor health.
"Near her Sir Eustace took his stand, With manner sad, yet soft and bland; Spoke oft, but her replies were tame; And soon less frequent both became. Their converse seem'd by labour wrought, Without one sweet, free-springing thought; Without those flashes of delight Which make it tender, deep, or bright! It was not thus upon the sea He us'd to look and talk with me! Not thus, when, lost to all around, His haughty kinsmen saw and frown'd! Then all unfelt the world's controul,— Its rein lay lightly o'er his soul; Far were its prides and cautions hurl'd, And Thought's wide banner flew unfurl'd.
"Yet we should do fair Osvalde wrong To class her with the circling throng: Her mind was like a gentle sprite, Whose wings, though aptly form'd for flight, From cowardice are seldom spread; Who folds the arms, and droops the head; Stealing, in pilgrim guise along, With needless staff, and vestment grey, It scarcely trills a vesper song Monotonous at close of day. Cross but its path, demanding aught, E'en what its pensive mistress sought, Though forward welcoming she hied, And its quick footstep glanc'd aside.
"Restraint, alarms, and solitude, Her early courage had subdu'd; Fetter'd her movements, looks, and tongue, While on her heart more weighty hung Each griev'd resentment, doubt, and pain, Each dread of anger or disdain. A deeper sorrow also lent The sharpen'd pang of discontent; For unconceal'd attachment prov'd Destructive to the man she lov'd.
"Owning, like her, an orphan's doom, He had not that prescriptive home Which wealth and royal sanction buys; No powerful friends, nor tender ties;— No claims, save former promise given, Whose only witness was in heaven; And promise takes a slender hold, Where all is selfish, dull, and cold.
"Slowly that bloomless favour grew, Before his stern protectors knew The secret which arous'd disdain. Declaring that he did but feign, They, in unpitying vengeance, hurl'd A sister's offspring on the world. Thus outrag'd, pride's corroding smart, The fever of a throbbing heart, Impell'd him first to wander round, And soon to leap that barrier ground, And seek the arch'd, embowering way, In which her steps were wont to stray.
"No sleep his heavy eyes could close, Nor restless memory find repose, Nor hope a plan on which to rest, In the wild tumult of a breast With warring passions deeply fraught. To see her was his only thought; Feel once again the tones that sprung So oft to that endearing tongue, Flow on his heart; desponding, faint, But too indignant for complaint; Say how completely he resign'd All former influence o'er her mind, Where it was better to destroy Each vestige of their days of joy. To breathe her name he would not dare, Except in solitude and prayer! 'Beyond belief I love, adore, But never will behold thee more!' Thus thinking o'er each purpose high, Tears gather'd blinding in his eye; And bitter, uncontroul'd regret Exclaim'd, 'Why have we ever met?'
"These conflicts and these hopes were fled; Alas! poor youth! his blood, was shed, Before the feet of Osvalde trod Again on the empurpled sod. No voice had dar'd to tell the tale; But she had many a boding thrill, For dumb observance watch'd her still; For laughter ceas'd whene'er she came, And none pronounc'd her lover's name! When wilfully she sought this spot, Shudderings prophetic mark'd his lot; She look'd! her maiden's cheek was pale! And from the hour did ne'er depart That deadly tremor from her heart. Pleasure and blandishment were vain; Deaf to persuasion's dulcet strain, It never reach'd her mind again.
"Arise, lovely mourner! thy sorrows give o'er, Nor droop so forlornly that beautiful head! Thy sighs art unheard by the youth they deplore, And those warm-flowing tears all unfelt by the dead.
"Then quit this despondence, sweet Osvalde! be gay! See open before thee the gates of delight! Where the Hours are now lingering on tiptoe, away! They view thee with smiles, and are loth to take flight.
"See the damsels around thee, how joyous they are! How their eyes sparkle pleasure whenever they meet! What sweet flowers are entwin'd in their long, floating hair! How airy their movements, how nimble their feet!
"O! bear her from hence! when she sees them rejoice, Still keener the pain of her agony burns; And when Joy carols by, with a rapturous voice, To hopeless Remembrance more poignantly turns.
"Thus often has her bosom bled; Thus have I seen her fainting led From feasts intended to dispel The woeful thoughts she nurs'd so well. And must she, by the king's command, To Eustace plight that fever'd hand? Proud, loyal as he is, can he, A victim to the same decree, Receive it, while regretting me? For that poor, withering heart, resign The warm, devoted faith of mine!
"Have I, too, an allotted task? What from the Minstrel do they ask? A nimble finger o'er the chords, A tongue replete with gracious words! Alas! the tribute they require, Truth, sudden impulse, should inspire; And from the senseless, subject lyre, Such fine and mellow music flow, The skill that forms it should not know Whence the delicious tones proceed; But, lost in rapture's grateful glow, Doubt its own power, and cry, 'Indeed, Some passing angel sweeps the strings, Wafting from his balsamic wings The sweetest breath of Eden bowers, Tones nurs'd and hovering there in flowers, Have left their haunts to wander free, Linger, alight, and dwell on thee!'
"In Osvalde's porch, where, full in bloom, The jasmine spread its rich perfume; And, in thick clustering masses, strove To hide the arch of stone above; While many a long and drooping spray Wav'd up, and lash'd the air in play; Was I ordain'd my harp to place, The pair with bridal strains to grace.
"The royal will,—and what beside? O! what I since have lost,—my pride, Forbade the wonted song to fail: I met him with a cheerful hail. I taught my looks, my lips, to feign I bade my hand its task sustain; And when he came to seek the bride, Her rival thus, unfaltering, cried:—
"'Approach! approach, thou gallant knight! England's first champion in the fight, Of grace and courtesy the flower, Approach the high-born Osvalde's bower! And forth let manly valour bring Youth's timid meekness, beauty's spring!
"'Thou darling of a vassal host, Thy parents' stay, thy kinsman's boast; Thou favourite in a monarch's eyes, Whose gracious hand awards the prize; Thee does the brightest lot betide, The best domain, the fairest bride!'
"Mine sunk beneath the mournful look Which glanc'd disdainful as I spoke; And, when his step past hurrying by, And when I heard his struggling sigh, A moment on my quailing tongue The speech constrain'd of welcome hung; But in the harp's continuous sound My wandering thoughts I quickly found.
"'Haste on! and here thy duteous train In rapt expectance shall remain; Till, with thee, brilliant as a gem Set in a kingdom's diadem, Thy lovely mistress shall appear! O! hasten! we await thee here!'
"Again did that upbraiding eye Check my false strain in passing by; And its concentred meaning fell Into my soul:—It was not well To triumph thus, though but in show; To chant the lay that joyance spoke, To wear the gay and careless look.— The ardent and the tender know What pain those self-reproaches brought, When conscience took the reins of thought Into her hand, avenging more All that she seem'd to prompt before. O tyrant! from whose stern command No act of mine was ever free, How oft wouldst thou a censor stand For what I did to pleasure thee! The well-propp'd courage of my look, The sportive language, airy tone, To wounded love and pride bespoke A selfish hardness not my own! And only lulling secret pain, I seem'd to fling around disdain.
"To him, with warm affections crost, Who, owning happiness was lost, Had said, 'Dear maiden, were I free, They would not let me think of thee; The only one who on my sight Breaks lovely as the morning light; Whom my heart bounding springs to greet, Seeks not, but always hopes to meet; With eager joy unlocks its store, Yet ever pines to tell thee more!' To him, should feign'd indifference bring A killing scorn, a taunting sting? To Osvalde, drooping and forlorn, A flower fast fading on the stem, All exultation seem'd like scorn, For what was hope and joy to them? As with awakening judgment came These feelings of remorse and shame, With the throng'd crowd, the bustling scene, Did deep abstractions intervene, O'er yielding effort holding sway, As, humbled, I pursued my way.
"The festive flowers, the incens'd air, The altar taper's reddening glare; The pausing, slow-advancing pair, Her fainter, his most watchful air; The vaulted pile, the solemn rite, Impress'd, then languish'd on my sight; And all my being was resign'd To that strong ordeal, where the mind, Summon'd before a heavenly throne, Howe'er surrounded, feels alone. When, bow'd in dust all earthly pride, All earthly power and threats defied, Mortal opinion stands as nought In the clear'd atmosphere of thought; And selfish care, and worldly thrall, And mean repining, vanish all. When prayers are pour'd to God above, His eyes send forth their beams of love; Darkness forsakes our mental sky, And, demon-like, our passions fly. The holy presence, by its stay Drives failings, fears, and woes away; Refines, exalts, our nature draws To share its own eternal laws Of pure benevolence and rest, The future portion of the blest— Their constant portion! Soon this flow Of life I lost—recall'd below: From prayers for them recall'd. Around, A sudden rush, of fearful sound, Smote on my ear; of voices crying, 'The bride, the Lady Osvalde dying! Give place! make room!' the hurrying press Eustace alarm'd; and, in distress, Calling for air, and through the crowd Which an impeded way allow'd, Forcing slow progress; bearing on Her pallid form; when, wholly gone You might have deem'd her mortal breath, Cold, languid, motionless as death, I saw before my eyes advance, And 'woke, astounded, from my trance.
"The air reviv'd her—but again She left not, for the social train, The stillness of her chamber;—ne'er Its threshold pass'd, but on her bier: Spoke but to one who seem'd to stand Anear, and took his viewless hand, To promise, let whate'er betide, She would not be another's bride. Then, pleading as for past offence, Cried out aloud, 'They bore me hence! My feet, my lips, refus'd to move, To violate the vows of love! My sense recoil'd, my vision flew, Almost before I met thy view! Almost before I heard thee cry Perfidious Osvalde! look and die!
"'Oppose them? No! I did not dare! I am not as a many are, Ruling themselves: my spirits fly, My force expires before reply. Instinctively a coward, free In speech, in act, I could not be With any in my life, but thee! Nor strength, nor power do I possess, Except, indeed, to bear distress! Except to pour the aching sigh, Which only can my pain relieve; Inhuman ye who ask me why, And pause, to wonder that I grieve: Mine are the wounds which never close, Mine is a deep, untiring care; A horror flying from repose, A weight the sickening soul must bear. The tears that from these eyelids flow, The sad confusion of my brain, All waking phantoms of its woe, Your anger, and the world's disdain,— Seek not to sooth me!—they are sent This feeble frame and heart to try! It is establish'd, be content! They never leave me till I die!'
"So little here is understood, So little known the great and good, The deep regret that Eustace prov'd, Brought home conviction that he lov'd To many: others thought, her dower, The loss of lordships, wealth, and power, Full cause for sorrow; and the king Hop'd he might consolation bring, And bind a wavering servant o'er, (Not found too loyal heretofore,) By linking his sole daughter's fate In wedlock with an English mate— His favourite too! whose own domain Spread over valley, hill, and plain; Whose far-trac'd lineage did evince A birth-right worthy of a prince; Whose feats of arms, whose honour, worth, Were even nobler than his birth; Who, in his own bright self, did bring A presence worthy of a king— A form to catch and charm the eye, Make proud men gracious, ladies sigh; The boldest, wisest, and the best, Greater than each presuming guest;— I speak from judgment, not from love,— In all endowments far above Who tastes this day of festal cheer, And whom his death assembles here!
"That he is known those look avow, The mantling cheek, the knitting brow: I could not hope it did he live, But now, O! now, ye must forgive! Most recreant they who dare offend One who has lost her only friend! De Stafford's widow here appears— For him, my Eustace, flow these tears! Ye may not blame me! ye have wives, Who yet may sorrow for your lives! Who, in the outset of their grief, Upon a father's neck may spring; Or find in innocence relief, And to a cherish'd infant cling; Or thus, like me, forlornly shed Their lonely wailing o'er the dead!
"Can eyes that briny torrents steep, Others in strong subjection keep? Yes! here are some that mine obey, And, self-indignant at the sway I hold upon them, turn away! Some, too, who have no cause for shame, Whom even the injur'd cannot blame, Now here, now there, above, below, Their looks of wild avoidance throw! Nay, gentle cousin, blush not so! And do not, pray thee, rise to go! I am bewilder'd with my woe; But hear me fairly to the end, I will not pain thee, nor offend. O no! I would thy favour win; For, when I die, as next of kin, So 'reft am I of human ties, It is thy place to close my eyes!
"With state and wealth to thee I part, But could not with De Stafford's heart! Nor could I mute and prudent be When all at once I found 'twas thee, Doom'd ever, in thy own despite, To take my rank, usurp my right! I told, alas! my father's name, The noble stock from which I came:— 'Marie de Brehan, sounds as well, Perhaps,' I cried, 'as Isabel! And were the elder branch restor'd, (My grandsire was the rightful lord,) I, in my injur'd father's place, Those large domains, that name would grace.'
"I never saw a joy so bright, So full, so fledg'd with sparkling light, As that which on the instant flew To his quick eye, when Eustace knew He had not yielded to a yoke Which prudence blam'd, or reason broke. 'O! trebly blest this hour,' he cried; 'I take not now another bride! I bow'd to duty and to pride; But, here I pledge my solemn vow, To wealth alone I will not bow! The only offspring of a race No misalliance did disgrace; Nurtur'd, school'd, fashion'd by their laws, Not wishing an exceptive clause, Till thee, my only choice, I met; And then, with useless, deep regret, I found in birth, and that alone, Thou wert unworthy of a throne! My ancestors appear'd too nice; Their grandeur bore too high a price, If, with it, on the altar laid, Freedom and happiness were paid! Yet, could I give my father pain, Or treat those lessons with disdain, I heard a child upon his knee; And, at the present, knew to be Entwin'd with every vital part? To scorn them were to break his heart! My mother too, though meek and kind, Possessing such a stately mind, That once perceiving what was fit, If 'twere to die, must still submit; Knowing no question in the right, Would not have borne me in her sight; Though quick her sands of life would run, Deserting, angry with her son! Yet noble both, by honour bound, To take no other vantage ground, They will not use a meaner plea, Nor sordid reasons urge to me! Good and high-minded, they will yield: I shall be victor in that field; And for my sovereign, we shall find Some inlet to his eager mind; At once not rashly all disclose, His plans or bidding to oppose,— That his quick temper would not brook; But I will watch a gracious look, And foster an auspicious hour, To try both love and reason's power. Zealous I cannot fail to be, Thou canst not guess to what degree, Dear Marie, when I plead for thee!'
"That the result was plain, I knew, For I had often heard him sue, And never known a boon denied. In secret I became his bride: But heaven the union disapprov'd— The father he so truly lov'd, Before this first offence was told, Though neither sick, infirm, or old, Without a moment's warning, died!
"This seal'd his silence for awhile; For, till he saw his mother smile, Till time the cloud of woe should chace From her pale, venerable face, He felt the tale he dar'd not break,— He could not on the subject speak! And oh! the gentle mourn so long, The faint lament outlasts the strong!
"Her waning health was fair pretence To keep his voyage in suspence; But still the king, averse or mute, Heard coldly his dejected suit, To give the lingering treaty o'er; And once exclaim'd, 'Persuade no more! This measure 'tis resolv'd to try! We must that veering subject buy; Else, let the enemy advance, De Brehan surely sides with France!'"
The harp again was silent; still No fiat of the general will Bade her to cease or to proceed: Oft an inquiring eye, indeed, The strangers rais'd; but instant check'd, Lest the new vassals should suspect They thought the monarch's reasons just, And faith so varying brought mistrust. De Brehan, with a bitter smile, Eyes closing, lips compress'd the while, Although Remorse, with keenest dart, And disappointment wrung his heart; Although he long'd to thunder—"Cease!" Restrain'd his fury, kept his peace.
The Lay of Marie.
Marie, as if upon the brink Of some abyss, had paus'd to think; And seem'd from her sad task to shrink. One hand was on her forehead prest, The other clasping tight her vest; As if she fear'd the throbbing heart Would let its very life depart. Yet, in that sad, bewilder'd mien, Traces of glory still were seen; Traces of greatness from above, Of noble scorn, devoted love; Of pity such as angels feel, Of clinging faith and martyr'd zeal!
Can one, who by experience knows So much of trial and of woes, Late prone to kindle and to melt, To feel whatever could be felt, To suffer, and without complaint, All anxious hopes, depressing fears; Her heart with untold sorrows faint, Eyes heavy with unshedden tears, Through every keen affliction past, Can that high spirit sink at last? Or shall it yet victorious rise, Beneath the most inclement skies, See all it loves to ruin hurl'd, Smile on the gay, the careless world; And, finely temper'd, turn aside Its sorrow and despair to hide? Or burst at once the useless chain, To seem and be itself again?
Will Memory evermore controul, And Thought still lord it o'er her soul? Queen of all wonders and delight, Say, canst not thou possess her quite, Sweet Poesy! and balm distil For every ache, and every ill? Like as in infancy, thy art Could lull to rest that throbbing heart! Could say to each emotion, Cease! And render it a realm of peace, Where beckoning Hope led on Surprize To see thy magic forms arise!
Oh! come! all awful and sublime, Arm'd close in stately, nervous rhyme, With wheeling chariot, towering crest And Amazonian splendors drest! Or a fair nymph, with airy grace, And playful dimples in thy face, Light let the spiral ringlets flow, And chaplet wreath along thy brow— Thou art her sovereign! Hear her now Again renew her early vow! The fondest votary in thy train, If all past service be not vain, Might surely be receiv'd again!
Behold those hands in anguish wrung One instant!—and but that alone! When, waving grief, again she sang, Though in a low, imploring tone.
"Awake, my lyre! thy echoes bring! Now, while yon phoenix spreads her wing! From her ashes, when she dies, Another brighter self shall rise! 'Tis Hope! the charmer! fickle, wild; But I lov'd her from a child; And, could we catch the distant strain, Sure to be sweet, though false and vain, Most dear and welcome would it be!— Thy silence says 'tis not for me!
"With Pity's softer-flowing strain, Awake thy sleeping wires again! For she must somewhere wander near, In following danger, death, and fear! From her regard no shade conceals; Her ear e'en sorrow's whisper steals: She leads us on all griefs to find; To raise the fall'n, their wounds to bind— Oh! not in that reproachful tone, Advise me first to heal my own!
"Alas! I cannot blame the lyre! What strain, what theme can she inspire, Whose tongue a hopeless mandate brings! Whose tears are frozen on the strings! And whose recoiling, languid prayer, Denies itself, in mere despair? So tamely, faintly, forth it springs; Just felt upon the pliant strings, It flits in sickly languor by, Nerv'd only with a feeble sigh!
"I yield submissive, and again Resume my half-abandon'd strain! Leading enchain'd sad thoughts along, Remembrance prompting all the song! But, in the journey, drawing near To what I mourn, and what I fear, The sad realities impress Too deeply; hues of happiness, And gleams of splendors past, decay; The storm despoiling such a day, Gives to the eye no clear, full scope, But scatters wide the wrecks of Hope! Yet the dire task I may not quit— 'Twas self impos'd; and I submit, To paint, ah me! the heavy close, The full completion of my woes! And, as a man that once was free, Whose fate impels him o'er the sea, Now spreads the sail, now plies the oar, Yet looks and leans towards the shore, I feel I may not longer stay, Yet even in launching court delay.
"Before De Stafford should unfold That secret which must soon be told; My terrors urg'd him to comply; For oh! I dar'd not then be nigh; And let the wide, tumultuous sea, Arise between the king and me! 'O! tell him, my belov'd, I pine away, So long an exile from my native home; Tell him I feel my vital powers decay, And seem to tread the confines of the tomb; But tell him not, it is extremest dread Of royal vengeance falling on my head!
"'Say, if that favour'd land but bless my eyes, That land of sun and smiles which gave me birth, Like the renew'd Antaeus I shall rise, On touching once again the parent earth! Say this, but whisper not that all delight, All health, is only absence from his sight!'
"My Eustace smil'd—' It shall be so; From me and love shall Marie go! But on the land, and o'er the sea, Attended still by love and me! The eagle's eye, to brave the light, The swallow's quick, adventurous flight, That faithfulness shall place in view, That service, daring, prompt, and true, Yet insufficient emblems be Of zeal for her who flies from me!
"'Deserter? hope not thus to scape! Thy guardian still, in every shape, Shall covertly those steps pursue, And keep thy welfare still in view! More fondly hovering than the dove Shall be my ever watchful love! Than the harp's tones more highly wrought, Shall linger each tenacious thought! Apt, active shall my spirit be In care for her who flies from me!'
"And, it had been indeed a crime To leave him, had I known the time, The fearful length of such delay, Protracting but from day to day, Which reach'd at length two tedious years Of dark surmises and of fears!
"How often, on a rocky steep, Would I upon his summons keep An anxious watch: there patient stay Till light's thin lines have died away In the smooth circle of the main, And render'd all expectance vain.
"At the blue, earliest glimpse of morn, Pleas'd with the lapse of time, return; For now, perchance, I might not fail, To see the long expected sail! Then, as it blankly wore away, Courted the fleeting eye to stay! As they regardless mov'd along, Wooed the slow moments in a song. The time approaches! but the Hours With languid steps advance, And loiter o'er the summer flowers, Or in the sun-beams dance! Oh! haste along! for, lingering, ye Detain my Eustace on the sea!
"Hope, all on tiptoe, does not fail To catch a cheering ray! And Fancy lifts her airy veil, In wild and frolic play! Kind are they both, but cruel ye, Detaining Eustace on the sea!
"Sometimes within my cot I staid, And with my precious infant play'd. 'Those eyes,' I cried, 'whose gaze endears, And makes thy mother's flow in tears! Those tender lips, whose dimpled stray Can even chase suspense away! Those artless movements, full of charms, Those graceful, rounded, rosy arms, Shall soon another neck entwine, And waken transports fond as mine! That magic laugh bespeaks thee prest As surely to another breast! That name a father's voice shall melt, Those looks within his heart be felt! Drinking thy smiles, thy carols, he Shall weep, for very love, like me!
"Those who in children see their heirs, Have numberless, diverging cares! Less pure for them affection glows,— Less of intrinsic joy bestows, Less mellowing, less enlivening, flows! Oh! such not even could divine A moment's tenderness like mine! Had he been destin'd to a throne, His little darling self alone, Bereft of station, grandeur, aught But life and virtue, love and thought, Could wake one anxious thrill, or share One hallow'd pause's silent prayer!
"Ye scenes, that flit my memory o'er, Deck'd in the smiles which then ye wore, In the same gay and varied dress, I cannot but admire and bless! What though some anxious throbs would beat, Some fears within my breast retreat, Yet then I found sincere delight, Whenever beauty met my sight, Whether of nature, chance, or art; Each sight, each sound, impress'd my heart, Gladness undrooping to revive, All warm, and grateful, and alive! But ere my spirit sinks, so strong Remembrance weighs upon the song, Pass we to other themes along!
"Say, is there any present here, Whom I can have a cause to fear?— Whom it were wrongful to perplex, Or faulty policy to vex? In what affrights the quiet mind My bitter thoughts employment find! In what torments a common grief Do I alone expect relief! Our aching sorrows to disclose, Our discontents, our wrongs repeat, To hurl defiance at our foes, And let the soul respire, is sweet! All that my conscience wills I speak At once, and then my heart may break!
"Too sure King Henry's presage rose;— De Brehan link'd him with our foes: Yes! ours! the Brehans us'd to be Patterns of faith and loyalty: And many a knightly badge they wore, And many a trace their 'scutcheons bore, Of noble deeds in days of yore,— Of royal bounty, and such trust As suits the generous and the just.
"From every record it appears, That Normandy three hundred years Has seen in swift succession run With English kings, from sire to son: But which of all those records saith, That we may change and barter faith: That if our favour is not sure, Or our inheritance secure; If envy of a rival's fame, Or hatred at a foeman's name, Or other reason unconfest, Now feigning sleep in every breast; Upon our minds, our interest weigh, While any fiercer passion sway; We may invite a foreign yoke, All truth disown'd, allegiance broke? Plot, and lay guileful snares to bring, At cost of blood, a stranger king? And of what blood, if it succeed, Do ye atchieve the glorious deed? Not of the base! when ye surprize A lurking mischief in the eyes, Dark hatred, cunning prompt to rise, And leap and catch at any prey, Such are your choice! your comrades they! But if a character should stand Not merely built by human hand; Common observances; the ill Surrounding all; a wayward will; Envy; resentment; falsehood's ease To win its way, evade, and please: If, turning from this worldly lore, As soul-debasing, servile, poor, The growing mind becomes, at length, Healthy and firm in moral strength; Allows no parley and no plea, The sources of its actions free, They spring strait forward, to a goal Which bounds, surmounts, and crowns the whole! Ye seek not to allay such force, To interrupt so bold a course! What were the use of minds like these, That will not on occasion seize, Nor stoop to aid the dark design, Nor follow in the devious line? As soon, in the close twisted brake, Could lions track the smooth, still snake, As they the sinuous path pursue Which policy may point to you! Nay, menace not with eyes, my lords! Ye could not fright me with your swords.
"E'en threats to punish, and to kill With tortures difficult to bear, Seem as they would not higher fill The measure of my own despair!
"Such terrors could not veil the hand Now pointing to my husband's bier; Nor could such pangs a groan command The childless mother should not hear!
"All now is chang'd! all contest o'er, Here sea-girt England reigns no more; And if your oaths are bound as fast, And kept more strictly than the last, Ye may, perchance, behold the time Service to her becomes a crime!
"The troubles calling Eustace o'er, Refresh'd my eyes, my heart, once more; And when I gave, with pleasure wild, Into his circling arms our child, I seem'd to hold, all evil past, My happiness secure at last; But found, too soon, in every look, In every pondering word he spoke, Receding thought, mysterious aim: As I did all his pity claim. A watchfulness almost to fear Did in each cautious glance appear. And still I sought to fix his eye,
"And read the fate impending there,— In vain; for it refus'd reply.
"'Canst thou not for a moment bear Even thy Marie's look,' I cried, 'More dear than all the world beside?' He answer'd,' Do not thou upbraid! And blame me not, if thus afraid A needful, dear request to make. One painful only for thy sake, I hesitate, and dread to speak, Seeing that flush upon thy cheek, That shrinking, apprehensive air.— Oh! born with me some ills to share, But many years of future bliss, Of real, tranquil happiness; I may not think that thou wouldst choose This prospect pettishly to lose For self-indulgence! Understood, Love is the seeking others' good. If we can ne'er resign delight, Nor lose its object from our sight; And only present dangers brave, That which we dearest hold to save;— If, when remov'd beyond our eye, All faith in heaven's protection die, Can all our tenderness atone For ills which spring from that alone?' My fancy rush'd the pause between— 'What can this fearful prelude mean? Art thou but seeking some pretence, So lately met! to send me hence? Believ'st thou terrors will not shake, Nor doubts distract, nor fears awake, In absence? when no power, no charm, Can grant a respite from alarm! Unreal evils manifold, Often and differently told, Scaring repose, each instant rise, False, but the cause of tears and sighs. How often I should see thee bleed! New terrors would the past succeed, With not a smile to intervene Of fair security between!'
"'No, Marie, no! my wife shall share With me the trials soldiers bear: No longer and no more we part.—- Thy presence needful to my heart I now more evidently know; Making the careful moments flow To happy music! on my brow The iron casque shall lighter prove,— The corslet softer on my breast, The shield upon my arm shall rest More easy, when the hand of love There places them. Our succours soon Arrive; and then, whatever boon I shall think fitting to demand, My gracious monarch's bounteous hand Awards as guerdon for my charge, And bids my wishes roam at large. Then if we from these rebels tear The traitor honours which they wear, Thy father's tides and domain Shall flourish in his line again! And Marie's child, in time to come, Shall call his grandsire's castle, home! Alas! poor babe! the scenes of war For him too harsh and frightful are! Would that he might in safety rest Upon my gentle mother's breast! That in the vessel now at bay, In Hugh de Lacy's care he lay! My heart and reason would be free, If he were safe beyond the sea.
"'Nay, let me not my love displease! But is it fit, that walls like these The blooming cherub should inclose! And when our close approaching foes Are skirmishing the country o'er, We must adventure forth no more.'
"At length I gave a half consent, Resign'd, submissive, not content: For, only in intensest prayer, For, only kneeling did I dare, Sustaining thus my sinking heart, Suffer my infant to depart. Oh! yet I see his sparkling tears; His parting cries are in my ears, As, strongly bending back the head, The little hands imploring spread, Him from my blinding sight they bore, Down from the fort along the shore.
"From the watch-tower I saw them sail, And pour'd forth prayers—of no avail! Yet, when a tempest howl'd around, Hurling huge branches on the ground From stately trees; when torrents swept The fields of air, I tranquil kept.—
"Hope near a fading blossom Will often take her stand; Revive it on her bosom, Or screen it with her wand: But to the leaves no sunbeams press, Her fair, thick locks pervading; Through that bright wand no dew-drops bless, Still cherish'd, and still fading:— Beneath her eye's bright beam it pines, Fed by her angel smile, declines.
"Eustace, meanwhile, with feverish care, Seem'd worse the dire suspense to bear. Bewilder'd, starting at the name Of messenger, when any came, With body shrinking back, he sought, While his eye seem'd on fire with thought, Defying, yet subdued by fear, To ask that truth he dar'd not hear.
"He went his rounds.—The duty done, His mind still tending toward his son; With spirit and with heart deprest, A judgment unsustain'd by rest;— Fainting in effort, and at strife With feelings woven into life; And with the chains of being twin'd By links so strong, though undefin'd, They curb or enervate the brain, Weigh down by languor, rack by pain, And spread a thousand subtil ties Across the tongue, and through the eyes; Till the whole frame is fancy vext, And all the powers of mind perplext.
"What wonder, then, it sunk and fail'd! What wonder that your plans prevail'd! In vain by stratagem you toil'd;— His skill and prudence all had foil'd; For one day's vigilance surpast Seeming perfection in the last. Each hour more active, more intent, Unarm'd and unassail'd he went; While every weapon glanc'd aside, His armour every lance defied. The blow that could that soul subdue At length was struck—but not by you! It fell upon a mortal part— A poison'd arrow smote his heart; The winds impelling, when they bore Wrecks of the vessel to our shore!
"Oh! ever dear! and ever kind! What madness could possess thy mind, From me, in our distress, to fly? True, much delight had left my eye; And, in the circle of my bliss, One holy, rapturous joy to miss Was mine!—Yet I had more than this, Before my wounds were clos'd, to bear! See thee, an image of despair, Just rush upon my woe, then shun Her who alike deplor'd a son; And, ere alarm had taken breath, Be told, my husband, of thy death! And feel upon this blighted sphere No tie remain to bind me here! Still in my life's young summer see A far and weary path to thee! Along whose wild and desert way No sportive tribes of fancy play; No smiles that to the lips arise, No joys to sparkle in the eyes;— No thrills of tenderness to feel, No spring of hope, no touch of zeal. All sources of heart-feeling stopt, All impulse, all sustainment dropt. With aching memory, sinking mind, Through this drear wilderness to find The path to death;—and pining, roam Myriads of steps to reach the tomb! Of which to catch a distant view, The softest line, the faintest hue, As symbol when I should be free, Were happiness too great for me!"
Here clos'd at once, abrupt, the lay! The Minstrel's fingers ceas'd to play! And, all her soul to anguish given, Doubted the pitying care of Heaven. But evil, in its worst extreme, In its most dire, impending hour, Shall vanish, like a hideous dream, And leave no traces of its power!
The vessel plunging on a rock, Wreck threatening in its fellest shape, No moment's respite from the shock, No human means or power to 'scape, Some higher-swelling surge shall free, And lift and launch into the sea! So, Marie, yet shall aid divine Restore that failing heart of thine! Though to its centre wounded, griev'd, Though deeply, utterly bereav'd. There genial warmth shall yet reside, There swiftly flow the healthful tide; And every languid, closing vein, Drink healing and delight again!
At present all around her fades, Her listless ear no sound pervades. Her senses, wearied and distraught, Perceive not how the stream of thought, Rising from her distressful song, In hurrying tide has swept along, With startling and resistless swell, The panic-stricken Isabel! Who—falling at her father's feet, Like the most lowly suppliant, kneels; And, with imploring voice, unmeet For one so fondly lov'd, appeals.—
"Those looks have been to me a law, And solely by indulgence bought, With zeal intense, with deepest awe, A self-devoted slave, I caught My highest transport from thy smile; And studied hourly to beguile The lightest cloud of grief or care I saw those gracious features wear! If aught induced me to divine A hope was opposite to thine, My fancy paus'd, however gay; My silent wishes sunk away! Displeasure I have never seen, But sickness has subdued thy mien; When, lingering near, I still have tried To cheer thee, and thou didst approve; But something still each act belied, My manner chill'd, restrain'd my love! E'en at the time my spirit died With aching tenderness, my eye, Encountering thine, was cold and dry! To maim intention, fondness,—came The sudden impotence of shame. Thy happiness was thriftless wealth, For I could only hoard by stealth! Affection's brightly-glowing ray Shone with such strong, o'erpowering sway, That service fainted by the way!
"But now an impulse, like despair, Makes me these inner foldings tear! With desperate effort bids me wrest The yearning secret from my breast! Far be the thought that any blame Can fix on thy beloved name! The hapless Minstrel may not feign; But thou, I know, canst all explain— Yet let me from this place depart, To nurse my fainting, sicken'd heart! Yet let me in a cloister dwell, The veiled inmate of a cell; To raise this cowering soul by prayer!— Reproach can never enter there!
"Turn quickly hence that look severe! And, oh! in mercy, not a tear! The most profuse of parents, thou Didst every wish fulfil—allow; Till that which us'd to please—invite, Had ceas'd to dazzle and delight; And all thy gifts almost despis'd, The love that gave alone I priz'd.
"My yielding spirit bows the knee; My will profoundly bends to thee: But paltry vanities resign'd, Wealth, gauds, and honours left behind, I only wanted, thought to quit This strange, wild world, and make me fit For one of better promise—given To such as think not this their heaven! Nay, almost in my breast arose A hope I scarcely dare disclose; A hope that life, from tumult free,— A life so harmless and so pure, A calm so shelter'd, so secure, At length might have a charm for thee! That supplications, patient, strong, Might not remain unanswer'd long! And all temptations from thee cast, The altar prove thy home at last!"
The artless Isabel prevails— That hard, unbending spirit fails! Not many words her lips had past, Ere round her his fond arms were cast; But, while his vengeful conscience prais'd, He chid; and, frowning, would have rais'd Till her resistance and her tears, The vehemence of youthful grief, Her paleness, his paternal fears, Compell'd him to afford relief; And forc'd the agonizing cry— That he could never her deny!
Of what ambition sought, beguil'd, His crimes thus fruitless! and his child, The beautiful, the rich and young— Now, in his most triumphant hours! The darling he had nurs'd in flowers! His pride, the prais'd of every tongue! So gentle as she was!—the rein Of influence holding, to restrain His harsher power, without pretence, In graceful, gay beneficence— An angel deem'd, her only care To comfort and to please! Whose smiling, whose unconscious air, Bespoke a heart at ease— By her—on whom sweet hopes were built, His cup when fill'd thus rashly spilt! The treasures he had heap'd in vain, Thrown thankless on his hands again! While—father to this being blest, He saw a dagger pierce her breast, In knowledge of his former guilt! And of his projects thus bereft, What had the wretched parent left? Oh! from the wreck of all, he bore A richer, nobler freight ashore! And filial love could well dispense On earth a dearer recompense, If he its real worth had known, Than full success had made his own.
So ardent and so kind of late, Is Marie careless of their fate, That, wrapt in this demeanour cold, Her spirits some enchantments hold? That thus her countenance is clos'd, Where high and lovely thoughts repos'd! Quench'd the pure light that us'd to fly To the smooth cheek and lucid eye! And fled the harmonizing cloud Which could that light benignly shroud, Soothing its radiance to our view, And melting each opposing hue, Till deepening tints and blendings meet Made contrast' self serene and sweet.
Vainly do voices tidings bring, That succours from the former king, Too late for that intent,—are come To take the dead and wounded home; Waiting, impatient, in the bay, Till they can safely bear away,— Not men that temporize and yield, But heroes stricken in the field; True sons of England, who, unmov'd, Could hear their fears, their interest plead; Led by no lure they disapprov'd, Stooping to no unsanction'd deed! Spirits so finely tun'd, so high, That grovelling influences die Assailing them! The venal mind Can neither fit inducement find To lead their purpose or their fate— To sway, to probe, or stimulate! What knowledge can they gain of such Whom worldly motives may not touch? Those who, the instant they are known, Each generous mind springs forth to own! Joyful, as if in distant land, Amid mistrust, and hate, and guile, Insidious speech, and lurking wile, They grasp'd a brother's cordial hand! Hearts so embued with fire from heaven, That all their failings are forgiven! Nay, o'er, perchance, whose laurel wreath When tears of pity shine, We softer, fonder sighs bequeath; More dear, though less divine.
Can kind and loyal bosoms bleed, And Marie not bewail the deed? Can England's valiant sons be slain, In whose fair isle so long she dwelt— To whom she sang, with whom she felt! Can kindred Normans die in vain! Or, banish'd from their native shore, Enjoy their sire's domains no more! Brothers, with whom her mind was nurs'd, Who shar'd her young ideas first!— And not her tears their doom arraign?
Alas! no stimulus avails! Each former potent influence fails: No longer e'en a sigh can part From that oppress'd and wearied heart.
What broke, at length, the spell? There came The sound of Hugh de Lacy's name! It struck like lightning on her ear— But did she truly, rightly hear? For terror through her senses ran, E'en as the song of hope began.— His charge arriv'd on England's coast, Consign'd where they had wish'd it most, Had brave De Lacy join'd the train Which sought the Norman shores again?— Then liv'd her darling and her pride! What anguish was awaken'd there! A joy close mating with despair— He liv'd for whom her Eustace died!
Yes! yes! he lives! the sea could spare That Island warrior's infant heir! For whom, when thick-surrounding foes, Nigh spent with toil, had sought repose, Slow stealing forth, with wary feet, From covert of secure retreat,— A soldier leading on the way To where his dear commander lay,— Over the field, at dead midnight, By a pale torch's flickering light, Did Friendship wander to behold, Breathing, but senseless, pallid, cold, With many a gash, and many a stain, Him,—whom the morrow sought in vain! Love had not dar'd that form to find, Ungifted with excelling grace! Nor, thus without a glimpse of mind, Acknowledg'd that familiar face! Disfigur'd now with many a trace Of recent agony!—Its power Had not withstood this fatal hour! Friendship firm-nerv'd, resolv'd, mature, With hand more steady, strong, and sore, Can torpid Horror's veil remove, Which palsies all the force of Love!
What is Love's office, then? To tend The hero rescued by a friend! All unperceiv'd, with balmy wing To wave away each restless thing That wakes to breathe disturbance round! To temper all in peace profound. With whisper soft and lightsome touch, To aid, assuage,—relieving much Of trouble neither seen nor told— Of pain, which it alone divines, Which scarcely he who feels defines, Which lynx-like eyes alone behold!
And heavy were De Stafford's sighs, And oft impatient would they rise; Though Friendship, Honour's self was there, Until he found a nurse more fair! A nicer tact, a finer skill, To know and to perform his will— Until he felt the healing look, The tones that only Marie spoke!
How patient, then, awaiting ease, And suffering pain, he cross'd the seas! How patient, when they reach'd the shore, A long, long tract he journey'd o'er! Though days and months flow'd past, at length, Ere he regain'd his former strength, He yet had courage to sustain, Without a murmur, every pain! "At home once more—with friends so true— My boy recover'd thus"—he cried, "His mother smiling by my side— Resigned each lesser ill I view! As bubbles on the Ocean's breast, When gloriously calm, will rise; As shadows from o'er-clouded skies, Or some few angry waves may dance Nor ruffle that serene expanse; So lightly o'er my comfort glides Each adverse feeling—so subsides Each discontent—and leaves me blest!"
The Lay of Marie.—Title.
The words roman, fabliau, and lai, are so often used indifferently by the old French writers, that it is difficult to lay down any positive rule for discriminating between them. But I believe the word roman particularly applies to such works as were to be supposed strictly historical: such are the romances of Arthur, Charlemagne, the Trojan War, &c. The fabliaux were generally, stories supposed to have been invented for the purpose of illustrating some moral; or real anecdotes, capable of being so applied. The lai, according to Le Grand, chiefly differed from the fabliau, in being interspersed with musical interludes; but I suspect they were generally translations from the British. The word is said to be derived from leudus; but laoi seems to be the general name of a class of Irish metrical compositions, as "Laoi na Seilge" and others, quoted by Mr. Walker (Hist. Mem. of Irish Bards), and it may be doubted whether the word was not formerly common to the Welsh and American dialects.—Ellis's Specimens.
The conclusion of Orfeo and Herodiis, in the Auchinlech MS, seems to prove that the lay was set to music:
That lay Orfeo is yhote, Gode is the lay, swete is the note.
In Sir Tristrem also, the Irish harper is expressly said to sing to the harp a merry lay.
It is not to be supposed, what we now call metrical romances were always read. On the contrary, several of them bear internal evidence that they were occasionally chaunted to the harp. The Creseide of Chaucer, a long performance, is written expressly to be read, or else sung. It is evident that the minstrels could derive no advantage from these compositions, unless by reciting or singing them; and later poems have been said to be composed to their tunes.—Notes to Sir Tristrem.
Baron De Brehan seem'd to stand.—p. 6. l. 10.
Brehan—Maison reconnue pour une des plus anciennes. Vraie race d'ancienne Noblesse de Chevalerie, qui dans les onxieme et douzieme siecles, tenoit rang parmi les anciens Barons, avant la reduction faite en 1451.
Where does this idle Minstrel stay?—p. 5. l. 13.
It appears that female minstrels were not uncommon, as one is mentioned in the Romance of Richard Coeur de Lion, without any remark on the strangeness of the circumstance.
A goose they dight to their dinner In a tavern where they were. King Richard the fire bet; Thomas to the spit him set; Fouk Doyley tempered the wood: Dear abought they that good! When they had drunken well, a fin, A minstralle com theirin, And said, "Gentlemen, wittily, Will ye have any minstrelsy?" Richard bade that she should go; That turned him to mickle woe! The minstralle took in mind, And said, "Ye are men unkind; And, if I may, ye shall for-think Ye gave me neither meat ne drink. For gentlemen should bede To minstrels that abouten yede, Of their meat, wine, and ale; For los rises of minstrale." She was English, and well true, By speech, and sight, and hide, and hue.
Ellis's Specimens of early English Metrical Romances.
 Was offended.
 Reputation, glory.
On which the slightest touch alone would kill.—p. 24. l. 6.
An unfortunate mistake in printing the word trill instead of kill, has made this appear ridiculous: it alludes to the old proverb—
You should neither tell friend nor foe Where life-blood go.
Any wound in a place while this pulsation passed through being esteemed fatal.
Abrupt his native accents broke.—p. 50. l. 7.
The Anglo-Norman dynasty, with their martial nobility, down to the reign of Edward III. continued to use, almost exclusively, the Romance or ancient French language; while the Saxon, although spoken chiefly by the vulgar, was gradually adopting, from the rival tongue, those improvements and changes, which fitted it for the use of Chaucer and Gower. In the introduction to the Metrical Romance of Arthur and Merlin, written during the minority of Edward V. it appears that the English language was then gaining ground. The author says, he has even seen many gentlemen who could speak no French (though generally used by persons of that rank), while persons of every quality understood English.—Sir Tristrem.