Imágenes de páginas
[ocr errors]

Spoke, though unwittingly, a partial truth;

Though destined by thy evil star For Fantasy embroiders Nature's veil.

With one like me to rove, The tints of ruddy eve, or dawning pale,

Whose business and whose joys are found Of the swart thunder-cloud, or silver haze,

Upon the bloody battle-ground. Are but the ground-work of the rich detail

Yet, foolish trembler as thou art, Which Fantasy with pencil wild portrays,

Thou hast a nook of my rude heart, Blending what seems and is, in the wrapt muser's

And thou and I will never part; gaze.

Harold would wrap the world in flame

Ere injury on Gunnar came!”
Nor are the stubborn forms of earth and stone
Less to the Sorceress's empire given;

For not with unsubstantial hues alone,

The grateful Page made no reply, Caught from the varying surge, or vacant heaven,

But turn'd to Heaven his gentle eye, From bursting sunbeam, or from flashing levin, And clasp'd his hands, as one who said, She limns her pictures: on the earth, as air, “ My toils—my wanderings are o’erpaid!” Arise her castles, and her car is driven;

Then in a gayer, lighter strain, And never gazed the eye on scene so fair,

Compell’d himself to speech again; But of its boasted charms gave Fancy half the And, as they flow'd along, share.

His words took cadence soft and slow,

And liquid, like dissolving snow,

They melted into song.
Up a wild pass went Harold, bent to prove,
Hugh Meneville, the adventure of thy lay;

Gunnar pursued his steps in faith and love,

“ What though through fields of carnage

wide Ever companion of his master's way.

I may not follow Harold's stride, Midward their path, a rock of granite grey

Yet who with faithful Gunnar's pride
From the adjoining cliff had made descent,

Lord Harold's feats can see?
A barren mass-yet with her drooping spray And dearer than the couch of pride,

Had a young birch-tree crown'd its battlement, He loves the bed of grey wolf's hide, Twisting her fibrous roots through cranny, flaw, and When slumbering by Lord Harold's side rent.

In forest, field, or lea.”

This rock and tree could Gunnar's thought en

gage Till Fancy brought the tear-drop to his eye, And at his master ask'd the timid Page, “ What is the emblem that a bard shou'd spy In that rude rock and its green canopy ?" And Harold said, “ Like to the helmet brave Of warrior slain in fight it seems to lie,

And these same drooping boughs do o'er it wave Not all unlike the plume his lady's favour gave.”

“ Ah, no!” replied the Page; “ the ill-starr'd

Of some poor maid is in the emblem shown,
Whose fates are with some hero's interwove,
And rooted on a heart to love unknown:
And as the gentle dews of heaven alone
Nourish those drooping boughs, and as the scathe
Of the red lightning rends both tree and stone,

So fares it with her unrequited faith,
Her sole relief is tears—her only refuge death.”—

“ Break off!” said Harold, in a tone
Where hurry and surprise were sbown,

With some slight touch of fear,---
“ Break off, we are not here alone;
A Palmer form comes slowly on !
By cowl, and staff, and mantle known,

My monitor is near.
Now mark him, Gunnar, heedfully;
He pauses by the blighted tree-
Dost see him, youth-Thou couldst not see
When in the vale of Galilee

I first beheld his form,
Nor when we met that other while
In Cephalonia's rocky isle,

Before the fearful storm,-
Dost see him now?”—The Page, distraught
With terror, answer'd," I see nought,

And there is nought to see,
Save that the oak’s scathed boughs fling down
Upon the path a shadow brown,
That, like a pilgrim's dusky gown,

Waves with the waving tree.”

« Thou art a fond fantastic boy,”
Harold replied, “ to females coy,

Yet prating still of love;
Even so amid the clash of war
I know thou lovest to keep afar,

Count Harold gazed upon the oak
As if his eyestrings would have broke,

And then resolvedly said,

"Be what it will yon phantom grey

Relentless in his avarice and ire, Nor heaven, nor hell, shall ever say

Churches and towns he gave to sword and fire; That for their shadows from his way

Shed blood like water, wasted every land, Count Harold turn’d dismay'd:

Like the destroying angel's burning brand; I'll speak him, though his accents fill

Fulfill’d whate'er of ill might be invented, My heart with that unwonted thrill

Yes — all these things he did — he did, but he Which vulgar minds call fear.'

REPENTED! I will subdue it!”–Forth he strode,

Perchance it is part of his punishment still, Paused where the blighted oak-tree show'd That his offspring pursues his example of ill. Its sable shadow on the road,

But thou, when thy tempest of wrath shall next shake And, folding on his bosom broad

thee, His arms, said, “ Speak—I hear.”

Gird thy loins for resistance, my son, and awake

thee; VIII.

If thou yield'st to thy fury, how tempted soever, The Deep Voice” said, “ O wild of will,

The gate of repentance sball ope for thee NEVER!”– Furious thy purpose to fulfilHeart-sear'd and unrepentant still,

XI. How long, 0 Harold, shall thy tread

“ He is gone,” said Lord Harold, and gazed as he Disturb the slumbers of the dead?

spoke; Each step in thy wild way thou makest,

“ There is nought on the path but the shade of the The ashes of the dead thou wakest;

oak. And shout in triumph o'er thy path

He is gone, whose strange presence my feeling opThe fiends of bloodshed and of wrath.

press’d, In this thine hour, yet turn and hear!

Like the night-hag that sits on the slumberer's breast. For life is brief and judgment near.”

My heart beats as thick as a fugitive's tread,

And cold dews drop from my brow and my head.IX.

Ho! Gunnar, the flasket yon almoner gave; Then ceased The Voice.--The Dane replied He said that three drops would recall from the In tones where awe and inborn pride

grave. For mastery strove,—“ In vain ye chide

For the first time Count Harold owns leech-craft has The wolf for ravaging the flock,

power, Or with its hardness taunt the rock,

Or, his courage to aid, lacks the juice of a flower!" I am as they—my Danish strain

The page gave the flasket, which Walwayn had filla Sends streams of fire through every vein.

With the juice of wild roots that his art had Amid thy realms of goule and ghost,

distillid Say, is the fame of Eric lost,

So baneful their influence on all that had breath, Or Witikind's the Waster, known

One drop had been frenzy, and two had been death. Where fame or spoil was to be won;

Harold took it, but drank not; for jubilee shrill, Whose galleys ne'er bore off a shore

And music and clamour were heard on the hill, They left not black with flame?

And down the steep pathway, o'er stock and o'er He was my sire,-and, sprung of him,

stone, That rover merciless and grim,

The train of a bridal came blithesomely on;
Can I be soft and tame!

There was song, there was pipe, there was timbrel,
Part hence, and with my crimes no more upbraid me, and still
I am that Waster's son, and am but what he made me.” The burden was, “ Joy to the fair Metelill!”

[blocks in formation]

Redoubling echoes rollid about,

The fragment which their giant foe While echoing cave and cliff sent out

Rent from the cliff and heaved to throw. The answering symphony Of all those mimic notes which dwell

XV. In hollow rock and sounding dell.

Backward they bore;-yet are there two

For battle who prepare:

No pause of dread Lord William knew Joy shook his torch above the band,

Ere his good blade was bare; By many a various passion fann’d;

And Wulfstane bent his fatal yew, As elemental sparks can feed

But ere the silken cord he drew, On essence pure and coarsest weed,

As hurld from Hecla’s thunder, few Gentle, or stormy, or refined,

That ruin through the air! Joy takes the colours of the mind.

Full on the outlaw's front it came, Lightsome and pure, but unrepress’d,

And all that late had human name, He fired the bridegroom's gallant breast;

And human face, and human frame, More feebly strove with maiden fear,

That lived, and moved, and had free will Yet still joy glimmer'd through the tear

To choose the path of good or ill, On the bride's blushing cheek, that shows

Is to its reckoning gone; Like dewdrop on the budding rose;

And nought of Wulfstane rests behind, While Wulfstane's gloomy smile declared

Save that beneath that stone, The glee that selfish avarice shared,

Half-buried in the dinted clay, And pleased revenge and malice high

A red and shapeless mass there lay
Joy’s semblance took in Jutta's eye.

Of mingled flesh and bone !
On dangerous adventure sped,
The witch deem'd Harold with the dead,

For thus that morn her Demon said :-

As from the bosom of the sky “ If, ere the set of sun, be tied

The eagle darts amain, The knot 'twixt bridegroom and his bride,

Three bounds from yonder summit high The Dane shall have no power of ill

Placed Harold on the plain. O'er William and o'er Metelill.”

As the scared wild-fowl scream and fly, And the pleased witch made answer,

" Then

So fled the bridal train;
Must Harold have pass'd from the paths of men ! As 'gainst the eagle's peerless might
Evil repose may his spirit have,

The noble falcon dares the fight, May hemlock and mandrake find root in his But dares the fight in vain, grave,

So fought the bridegroom; from his hand May his death-sleep be dogged by dreams of dis- The Dane's rudo mace has struck his brand, may,

Its glittering fragments strew the sand, And his waking be worse at the answering day.”

Its lord lies on the plain.

Now, Heaven! take noble William’s part, XIV.

And melt that yet unmelted heart, Such was their various mood of glee

Or, ere his bridal hour depart,
Blent in one shout of ecstasy.

The hapless bridegroom 's slain !
But still when Joy is brimming highest,
Of Sorrow and Misfortune nighest,

Of terror with her ague cheek,

Count Harold's frenzied rage is high, And lurking Danger, sages speak :

There is a death-fire in his eye, These haunt each path, but chief they lay

Deep furrows on his brow are trenchd, Their snares beside the primrose way.

His teeth are set, his hand is clench'u, Thus found that bridal band their path

The foam upon his lip is white, Beset by Harold in his wrath.

His deadly arm is up to smite ! Trembling beneath his maddening mood,

But, as the mace aloft he swung, High on a rock the giant stood;

To stop the blow young Gunnar sprung, His shout was like the doom of death

Around his master's knees he clung, Spoke o'er their heads that pass'd beneath.

And cried, " In mercy spare ! His destined victims might not spy

0, think upon the words of fear The reddening terrors of his eye,

Spoke by that visionary Seer, The frown of rage that writhed his face,

The crisis he foretold is here,The lip that foam'd like boar’s in chase ;

Grant mercy,-or despair!” But all could see--and, seeing, all

This word suspended Harold's mood, Bore back to shun the threaten'd fall

Yet still with arm upraised he stood,

Bright was the noontide of their day, And all serene its setting ray.

Warold the Dauntless.

And visage like the headsman's rude

That pauses for the sign.
“ O mark thee with the blessed rood,”
The Page implored ; “ Speak word of good,
Resist the fiend, or be subdued!”

He sign’d the cross divine-
Instant his eye hatb human light,
Less red, less keen, less fiercely bright;
His brow relax'd the obdurate frown,
The fatal mace sinks gently down,

He turns and strides away;
Yet oft, like revellers who leave
Unfinish'd feast, looks back to grieve,
As if repenting the reprieve

He granted to his prey.
Yet still of forbearance one sign hath he given,
And fierce Witikind's son made one step towards



I. WELL do I hope that this my minstrel tale Will tempt no traveller from southern fields, Whether in tilbury, barouche, or mail, To view the Castle of these Seven Proud Shields. Small confirmation its condition yields To Meneville's high lay,--No towers are seen On the wild heath, but those that Fancy builds,

And, save a fosse that tracks the moor with green, Is nought remains to tell of what may there have been

XVIII. But though his dreaded footsteps part, Death is behind and shakes his dart; Lord William on the plain is lying, Beside him Metelill seems dying !Bring odours-essences in hasteAnd lo! a flasket richly chased, But Jutta the elixir proves Ere pouring it for those she lovesThen Walwayn's potion was not wasted, For when three drops the hag had tasted,

So dismal was her yell,
Each bird of evil omen woke,
The raven gave his fatal croak,
And shriek'd the night-crow from the oak,
The screech-owl from the thicket broke,

And flutter'd down the dell!
So fearful was the sound and stern,
The slumbers of the full-gorged erne
Were startled, and from furze and fern

Of forest and of fell,
The fox and famish'd wolf replied,
(For wolves then prowl'd the Cheviot side..
From mountain head to mountain head
The unhallow'd sounds around were sped;?
But when their latest echo fled,
The sorceress on the ground lay dead.

And yet grave authors, with the no small waste
Of their grave time, have dignified the spot
By theories, to prove the fortress placed
By Roman bands, to curb the invading Scot.
Hutchinson, Horsley, Camden, I might quote,
But rather choose thre theory less civil
Of boors, who, origin of things forgot,

Refer still to the origin of evil,
And for their master-mason choose that master-fiend

the Devil.

II. Therefore, 1 say, it was on fiend-built towers That stout Count Harold bent his wondering gaze, When evening dew was on the heather flowers, And the last sunbeams made the mountain blaze, And tinged the battlements of other days With the bright level light ere sinking down.Illumined thus, the Dauntless Dane surveys

The Seven Proud Shields that o'er the portal frown, And on their blazons traced high marks of old renown.

XIX. Such was the scene of blood and woes, With which the bridal morn arose

Of William and of Metelill; But oft, when dawning 'gins to spread, The summer morn peeps dim and red

Above the eastern hill, Ere, bright and fair, upon his road The King of Splendour walks abroad; So, when this cloud had pass'd away,

A wolf North Wales had on his armour-coat,
And Rhys of Powis-land a couchant stag;
Strath-Clwyd's strange emblem was a stranded boat,
Donald of Galloway's a trotting nag;
A corn-sheaf gilt was fertile Lodon's brag;
A dudgeon-dagger was by Dunmail worn;
Northumbrian Adolf gave a sea-beat crag

Surmounted by a cross—such signs were borne Upon these antique shields, all wasted now and worn.

III. These scann'd, Count Harold sought the castle-door, Whose ponderous bolts were rusted to decay; Yet till that hour adventurous knight forbore The unobstructed passage to essay.

I See a note on the Lord of the Isles, Canto v. st. 31, p. 419, ante.

More strong than armed warders in array, For whom the bride's shy footstep, slow and light, And obstacle more sure than bolt or bar,

Was changed ere morning to the murderer's tread. Sate in the portal Terror and Dismay,

For human bliss and woe in the frail thread While Superstition, who forbade to war

Of human life are all so closely twined, With foes of other mould than mortal clay,

That till the shears of Fate the texture shred, Cast spells across the gate, and barr'd the onward The close succession cannot be disjoin'd, way.

Nor dare we, from one hour, judge that which comes

behind. Vain now those spells; for soon with heavy clank The feebly-fasten'd gate was inward push’d,

VI. And, as it oped, through that emblazon'd rank But where the work of vengeance had been done, Of antique shields, the wind of evening rush'd In that seventh chamber, was a sterner sight; With sound most like a groan, and then was hush'a. There of the witch-brides lay each skeleton, Is none who on such spot such sounds could hear Still in the posture as to death when dight. But to his heart the blood had faster rush’d; For this lay prone, by one blow slain outright;

Yet to bold Harold's breast that throb was dear And that, as one who struggled long in dying; It spoke of danger nigh, but had no touch of fear. One bony hand held knife, as if to smite;

One bent on fleshless knees, as mercy crying; IV.

One lay across the door, as kill'd in act of flying." Yet Harold and his Page no signs have traced Within the castle, that of danger show'd;

The stern Dane smiled this charnel-house to For still the halls and courts were wild and waste, see,As through their precincts the adventurers trode. For his chafed thought return’d to Metelill;The seven huge towers rose stately, tall, and broad, And“ Well,” he said, “ hath woman's perfidy, Each tower presenting to their scrutiny

Empty as air, as water volatile, A hall in which a king might make abode,

Been here avenged— The origin of ill And fast beside, garnish'd both proud and high, Through woman rose, the Christian doctrine Was placed a bower for rest in which a king might lie. saith:

Nor deem I, Gunnar, that thy minstrel skill As if a bridal there of late had been,

Can show example where a woman's breath Deck'd stood the table in each gorgeous hall; Hath made a true-love vow, and, tempted, kept her And yet it was two hundred years, I ween,

faith.” Since date of that unhallow'd festival. Flagons, and ewers, and standing cups, were all

VII. Of tarnish'd gold, or silver nothing clear,

The minstrel-boy half smiled, half sigh’d,
With throne begilt, and canopy of pall,

And his half-filling eyes he dried,
And tapestry clothed the walls with fragments sear And said, “ The theme I should but wrong,
Frail as the spider's mesh did that rich woof appear. Unless it were my dying song,

(Our Scalds have said, in dying hour

The Northern harp has treble power,)
In every bower, as round a hearse, was hung Else could I tell of woman's faith,
A dusky crimson curtain o'er the bed,

Defying danger, scorn, and death.
And on each couch in ghastly wise were flung Firm was that faith,-as diamond stone
The wasted relics of a monarch dead;

Pure and unflaw'd,,her love unknown,
Barbaric ornaments around were spread,

And unrequited ;—firm and pure, Vests twined with gold, and chains of precious Her stainless faith could all endure; stone,

From clime to clime,- from place to place,And golden circlets, meet for monarch's head; Through want, and danger, and disgrace,

While grinn'd, as if in scorn amongst them thrown, A wanderer's wayward steps could trace.-
The wearer's fleshless skull, alike with dust bestrown. All this she did, and guerdon none

Required, save that her burial-stone
For these were they who, drunken with delight, Should make at length the secret known,
On pleasure's opiate pillow laid their head,

Thus hath a faithful woman done.'

1 “In an invention like this we are hardly to look for pro- until some hundred years after the era of the poem, and many babilities, bat all these preparations and ornaments are not of the scenes described, like that last quoted, (stanzas iv. v. quite consistent with the state of society two hundred years vi.) belong even to a still later period. At least this defect is before the Danish Invasion, as far as we know any thing of it. not an imitation of Mr. Scott, who, being a skilful antiquary, In these matters, however, the author is never very scrupu- is extremely careful as to niceties of this sort."--Critical Relous, and has too little regarded propriety in the minor cir- view. cumstances: thus Harold is clad in a kind of armour not worn

« AnteriorContinuar »