Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

CANTO SIXTU.

And visage like the headsman's rude

Bright was the noontide of their day,
That pauses for the sign.

And all serene its setting ray.
“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;

Harold the Dauntless.
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,

I.
As if repenting the reprieve

WELL do I hope that this my minstrel tale
He granted to his prey.

Will tempt no traveller from southern fields,
Yet still of forbearance one sign hath he given, Whether in tilbury, barouche, or mail,
And fierce Witikind's son made one step towards To view the Castle of these Seven Proud Shields.
heaven.

Small confirmation its condition yields

To Meneville's high lay,—No towers are seen XVIII.

On the wild heath, but those that Fancy builds, But though his dreaded footsteps part,

And, save a fosse that tracks the moor with green, Death is behind and shakes his dart;

Is nought remains to tell of what may there have been. Lord William on the plain is lying, Beside him Metelill seems dying !

And yet grave authors, with the no small waste Bring odours-essences in haste

Of their grave time, have dignified the spot And lo! a flasket richly chased,

By theories, to prove the fortress placed But Jutta the elixir proves

By Roman bands, to curb the invading Scot. Ere pouring it for those she loves

Hutchinson, Horsley, Camden, I might quote, Then Walwayn's potion was not wasted,

But rather choose the theory less civil For when three drops the hag had tasted,

Of boors, who, origin of things forgot, So dismal was her yell,

Refer still to the origin of evil, Each bird of evil omen woke,

And for their master-mason choose that master-fiend The raven gave his fatal croak,

the Devil. And shriek'd the night-crow from the oak, The screech-owl from the thicket broke,

II. And flutter'd down the dell!

Therefore, I say, it was on fiend-built towers So fearful was the sound and stern,

That stout Count Harold bent his wondering gaze, The slumbers of the full-gorged erne

When evening dew was on the heather flowers, Were startled, and from furze and fern

And the last sunbeams made the mountain blaze, Of forest and of fell,

And tinged the battlements of other days The fox and famish'd wolf replied,

With the bright level light ere sinking down.(For wolves then prowl'd the Cheviot side.! | Hummed thus, the Dauntless Dane surveys From mountain head to mountain head

The Seven Proud Shields that o'er the portal frown, The unhallow'd sounds around were sped;' And on their blazons traced high marks of old renown. But when their latest echo fled, The sorceress on the ground lay dead.

A wolf North Wales had on his armour-coat,

And Rhys of Powis-land a couchant stag;
XIX.

Strath-Clwyd'sstrange emblem was a stranded boat, Such was the scene of blood and woes,

Donald of Galloway's a trotting nag; With which the bridal morn arose

A corn-sheaf gilt was fertile Lodon’s brag; Of William and of Metelill;

A dudgeon-dagger was by Dunmail worn; But oft, when dawning 'gins to spread,

Northumbrian Adolf gave a sea-beat crag The summer morn peops dim and red

Surmounted by a cross-such signs were bortie Above the eastern hill,

Upon these antique shields, all wasted now and worn. Ere, bright and fair, upon his road The King of Splendour walks abroad;

III. So, when this cloud had pass’d away,

These scann'd, Count Harold sought the castle-door,

Whose ponderous bolts were rusted to decay; I See a note on the Lord of the Isles, Canto v. st. 31, p. 419,

Yet till that hour adventurous knight forbore
The unobstructed passage to essay.

ante.

7

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'd. 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
V.

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 chime 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.'

[ocr errors]

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, but all these preparations and ornaments are not of the scenes described, like that last quoted, (stanzas iv. v. quite consistent with the state of sociсty 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

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Not in each breast such truth is laid,

Sable their harness, and there came But Eivir was a Danish maid.”

Through their closed visors sparks of flame

The first proclaim’d, in sounds of fear,
VIII.

* Harold the Dauntless, welcome here!' “ Thou art a wild enthusiast,” said

The next cried, ' Jubilee! we've won Count Harold," for thy Danish maid;

Count Witikind the Waster's son!' And yet, young Gunnar, I will own

And the third rider sternly spoke, Hers were a faith to rest upon.

• Mount, in the name of Zernebock !-But Eivir sleeps beneath her stone,

From us, O Harold, were thy powers,— And all resembling her are gone.

Thy strength, thy dauntlessness, are ours; What maid e'er show'd such constancy

Nor think, a vassal thou of hell, In plighted faith, like thine to me?

With hell can strive.' The fiend spoke true! But couch thee, boy; the darksome shade

My inmost soul the summons knew, Falls thickly round, nor be dismay'd

As captives know the knell Because the dead are by.

That says the headsman's sword is bare, They were as we; our little day

And, with an accent of despair, O'erspent, and we shall be as they.

Commands them quit their cell. Yet near me, Gunnar, be thou laid,

I felt resistance was in vain, Thy couch upon my mantle made,

My foot had that fell stirrup ta'en, That thou mayst think, should fear invade,

My hand was on the fatal mane, Thy master slumbers nigh.”

When to my rescue sped Thus couch'd they in that dread abode,

That Palmer's visionary form, Until the beams of dawning glow'd.

And-like the passing of a storin-

The demons yellid and fled!
IX.
An alter'd man Lord Harold rose,

XI.
When he beheld that dawn unclose-

“ His sable cowl, flung back, reveai d There's trouble in his eyes,

The features it before conceal’d; And traces on his brow and cheek

And, Gunnar, I could find Of mingled awe and wonder speak:

In him whose counsels strove to stay “ My page,” he said, “ arise ;

So oft my course on wilful way, Leave we this place, my page."--No more

My father Witikind! He utter'd till the castle door

Doom'd for his sins, and doom'd for mine, They crossd-but there he paused and said,

A wanderer upon earth to pine “ My wildness hath awaked the dead

Until his son shall turn to grace, Disturb'd the sacred tomb!

And smooth for him a resting-place.Methought this night I stood on high,

Gunnar, he must not haunt in vain Where Hecla roars in middle sky,

This world of wretchedness and pain : And in her cavern'd gulfs could spy

I'll tame my wilful heart to live The central place of doom;

In peace—to pity and forgiveAnd there before my mortal eye

And thou, for so the Vision said, Souls of the dead came flitting by,

Must in thy Lord's repentance aid. Whom fiends, with many a fiendish cry,

Thy mother was a prophetess, Bore to that evil den !

He said, who by her skill could guess My eyes grew dizzy, and my brain

How close the fatal textures join Was wilder'd, as the elvish train,

Which knit thy thread of life with mine; With shriek and howl, dragg’d on amain

Then, dark, he hinted of disguise Those who had late been men.

She framed to cheat too curious eyes,

That not a moment might divide
X.

Thy fated footsteps from my side. “ With haggard eyes and streaming hair,

Methought while thus my sire did teach, Jutta the Sorceress was there,

I caught the meaning of his speech, And there pass'd Wulfstane, lately slain,

Yet seems its purport doubtful now.” All crush'd and foul with bloody stain.

His hand then sought his thoughtful brow More had I

seen,
but that uprose

Then first he mark’d, that in the tower
A whirlwind wild, and swept the snows;

His glove was left at waking hour.
And with such sound as when at need
A champion spurs his borse to speed,

XII.
Three arm'd knights rush on, who lead

Trembling at first, and deadly pale, Caparison'd a sable steed.

Had Gunnar heard the vision'd tale;

But when he learn'd the dubious close,
He blush'd like any opening rose,
And, glad to hide his tell-tale cheek,
Hied back that glove of mail to seek;
When soon a shriek of deadly dread
Summond his master to his aid.

[ocr errors]

6

XIII. What sees Count Harold in that bower,

So late his resting-place ?
The semblance of the Evil Power,

Adored by all his race!
Odin in living form stood there,
His cloak the spoils of Polar bear;
For plumy crest a meteor shed
Its gloomy radiance o'er his head,
Yet veil'd its haggard majesty
To the wild lightnings of his eye.
Such height was his, as when in stone
O'er Upsal's giant altar shown:

So flow'd his hoary beard ;
Such was his lance of mountain-pine,
So did his sevenfold buckler shine;-

But when his voice he rear'd,
Deep, without harshness, slow and strong,
The powerful accents roll'd along,
And, while he spoke, his hand was laid
On captive Gunnar's shrinking head.

Nor glove, nor buckler, splent, nor nail,
Shall rest with thee—that youth release,
And God, or Demon, part in peace.”
Eivir,"

," the Shape replied, “ is mine,
Mark'd in the birth-hour with my sign.
Think'st thou that priest with drops of spray
Could wash that blood-red mark away?
Or that a borrow'd sex and name
Can abrogate a Godhead's claim ?"
Thrill'd this strange speech through Harold's

brain,
He clench'd his teeth in high disdain,
For not his new-born faith subdued
Some tokens of his ancient mood.-
“ Now, by the hope so lately given
Of better trust and purer heaven,
I will assail thee, fiend !”_Then rose
His mace, and with a storm of blows
The mortal and the Demon close.

XVI.
Smoke roll'd above, fire flash'd around,
Darken’d the sky and shook the ground;

But not the artillery of hell,
The bickering lightning, nor the rock
Of turrets to the earthquake's shock,

Could Harold's courage quell.
Sternly the Dane his purpose kept,
And blows on blows resistless heap'd,

Till quail'd that Demon Form, And for his power to hurt or kill Was bounded by a higher will

Evanish'd in the storm. Nor paused the Champion of the North, But raised, and bore his Eivir forth, From that wild scene of fiendish strife, To light, to liberty, and life !

XIV. “ Harold,” he said, “what rage is thine, To quit the worship of thy line,

To leave thy Warrior-God ? With me is glory or disgrace, Mine is the onset and the chase, Embattled hosts before my face

Are wither'd by a nod. Wilt thou then forfeit that high seat Deserved by many a dauntless feat, Among the heroes of thy line, Eric and fiery Thorarine ? Thou wilt not. Only I can give The joys for which the valiant live, Victory and vengeance-only I Can give the joys for which they die, The immortal tilt-the banquet full, The brimming draught from foeman's skull. Mine art thou, witness this thy glove, The faithful pledge of vassal's love.”

XVII.
He placed her on a bank of moss,

A silver runnel bubbled by,
And new-born thoughts his soul engross,
And tremors yet unknown across

His stubborn sinews fly,
The while with timid hand the dew
Upon her brow and neck he threw,
And mark'd how life with rosy hue
On her pale cheek revived anew,

And glimmer'd in her eye.
Inly he said, “That silken tress,-
What blindness mine that could not guess!
Or how could page's rugged dress

That bosom's pride belie? 0, dull of heart, through wild and wave In search of blood and death to rave,

With such a partner nigh!”.

XV. “ Tempter,” said Harold, firm of heart, “ I charge thee, hence! whate'er thou art, I do defy thee-and resist The kindling frenzy of my breast, Waked by thy words; and of my mail,

1 Mr. Adolphus, in his Letters on the Author of Waverley, in the Irish orphan of 'Rokeby,' and the conversion of Hap. 230, remarks on the coincidence between “the catastrophe rold's page into a female,"-all which he calls "specimens of of · The Black Dwarf,' the recognition of Mortham's lost son unsuccessful contrivance, at a great expense of probability.”

XVIII.
Then in the mirror'd pool he peer'd,
Blamed his rough locks and shaggy beard,
The stains of recent conflict clear’d,

And thus the Champion proved,
That he fears now who never fear’d,

And loves who never loved.
And Eivir-life is on her cheek,
And yet she will not move or speak,

Nor will her eyelid fully ope;
Perchance it loves, that half-shut eye,
Through its long fringe, reserved and shy,
Affection's opening dawn to spy;
And the deep blush, which bids its dye
O'er cheek, and brow, and bosom fly,

Speaks shame-facedness and hope.

“ Eivir! since thou for many a day
Hast follow'd Harold's wayward way,
It is but meet that in the line
Of after-life I follow thine.
To-morrow is Saint Cuthbert's tide,
And we will grace his altar's side,

A Christian knight and Christian bride;
And of Witikind's son shall the marvel be said,
That on the same morn he was christend and wed.”

CONCLUSION.

XIX.
But vainly seems the Dane to seek
For terms his new-born love to speak,-
For words, save those of wrath and wrong,
Till now were strangers to his tongue;
So, when he raised the blushing maid,
In blunt and honest terms he said,
(”Twere well that maids, when lovers woo,
Heard none more soft, were all as true,)

And now, Ennui, what ails thee, weary maid?
And why these listless looks of yawning sorrow?
No need to turn the page, as if 'twere lead,
Or fling aside the volume till to-morrow.-
Be cheer'd—'tis ended-and I will not borrow,
To try thy patience more, one anecdote
From Bartholine, or Perinskiold, or Snorro.

Then pardon thou thy minstrel, who hath wrote
A Tale six cantos long, yet scorn'd to add a wote.'

I“Haruld the Dauntless,' like · The Bridal of Trier passages, than in those rougher scenes of feud and fray, through main,' is a tolerably successful imitation of some parts of the which the poet of early times conducts his reader. His warstyle of Mr. Walter Scott; but, like all imitations, it is clearly horse follows with somewhat of a hobbling pace the proud and distinguishable from the prototype; it wants the life and sea- impetuous courser whom he seeks to rival. Unfortunately, as soning of originality. To illustrate this familiarly from the it appears to us, the last style of poetical excellence is rather stage :-We have all witnessed a hundred imitations of popu- more aimed at here than in the former poem ; and as we do not lar actors-of Kemble, for instance, in which the voice, the discover any improvement in the mode of treating it, Harold gesture, and somewhat even of the look, were copied. In ex- the Dauntless scarcely appears to us to equal the Bridal of ternals the resemblance might be sufficiently correct; but Triermain. It contains, indeed, passages of similar merit, but where was the informing soul, the mind that dictated the ac- not quite so numerous; and such, we suspect, will ever be the tion and expression? Who could endure the tedium of seeing case while the author continues to follow after this line of the imitator go through a whole character? In ‘Harold the poetry."-Scots Mag., Feb. 1817. Dauntless,' the imitation of Mr. Scott is pretty obvious, but we are weary of it before we arrive near the end. The author has talent, and considerable facility in versification, and on “ This is an elegant, sprightly, and delightful little poem, this account it is somewhat lamentable, not only that he written apparently by a person of taste and genius, but who should not have selected a better model, but that he should either possesses not the art of forming and combining a plot, copy the parts of that model which are lcast worthy of study. or regards it only as a secondary and subordinate object. la Perhaps it was not easy to equal tho energy of Mr. Scott's line, this we do not widely differ from him, but are sensible, meanor his picturesque descriptions. His peculiarities and defects time, that many others will ; and that the rambling and unwere more attainable, and with these the writer of this novel certain nature of the story will be the principal objection in verse has generally contented himself: he will also content urged against the poem before us, as well as the greatest bar a certain number of readers, who merely look for a few amu- to its extensive popularity. The character of Mr. Scott's mosing or surprising incidents. In these, however, ‘Harold the mances has effected a material change in our mode of estiDauntless' does not abound so much as 'The Bridal of Trier mating poetical compositions. In all the estimable works of main.' They are, indeed, romantic enough to satisfy all the our former poets, from Spenser down to Thomson and Cowper, parlour-boarders of ladies' schools in England; but they want the plot seems to have been regarded as good or bad, only in that appearance of probability which should give them inter- proportion to the advantages which it furnished for poetical est."-Critical Review, April, 1817.

description; but, of late years, one half, at least, of the merit of a poem is supposed to rest on the interest and management

of the tale. “We had formerly occasion to notice, with considerable “We speak not exclusively of that numerous class of readers praise, The Bridal of Triermain. We remarked it as a pretty who peruse and estimate a new poem, or any poem, with the close imitation of Mr. Scott's poetry; and as that great master same feelings, and precisely on the same principles, as they seems, for the present, to have left his lyre unstrung, a substi- do a novel. It is natural for such persons to judge only by the tute, even of inferior value, may be welcomed by the public. effect produced by the incidents; but we have otten bees It appears to us, however, and still does, that the merit of surprised that some of our literary critics, even those to wbuse the present author consists rather in the soft and wildly tender judgment we were most disposed to bow, should lay so much

« AnteriorContinuar »