LORD JOHN OF THE EAST,
1 THE fires blazed bright till deep midnight,
2 And the guests sat in the hall,
3 And the Lord of the feast, Lord John of the East,
4 Was the merriest of them all.
5 His dark-grey eye, that wont, so sly,
6 Beneath his helm to scowl,
7 Flashed keenly bright, like a new-waked sprite,
8 As passed the circling bowl.
9 In laughter light, or jocund lay,
10 That voice was heard, whose sound,
11 Stern, loud and deep in battle-fray,
12 Did foe-men fierce astound;
13 And stretched so balm, like lady's palm,
14 To every jester near,
15 That hand which through a prostrate foe
16 Oft thrust a ruthless spear.
17 The gallants sang and the goblets rang,
18 And they revelled in careless state,
19 Till a thundering sound that shook the ground
20 Was heard at the castle gate.
21 "Who knocks without, so loud and stout? —
22 Some wandering knight, I ween,
23 Who from afar, like a guiding star,
24 Our blazing hall hath seen.
25 "If a stranger it be of high degree,
26 (No churl durst make such din,)
27 Step forth amain, my pages twain,
28 And soothly ask him in.
29 "Tell him our cheer is the forest deer,
30 Our bowl is mantling high,
31 And the Lord of the feast is John of the East,
32 Who welcomes him courteously."
33 The pages twain returned again,
34 And a wild scared look had they.
35 "Why look ye so? — Is it friend or foe?"
36 Did the angry Baron say.
37 "A stately knight without doth wait,
38 But further he will not come,
39 Till the Baron himself shall stand at the gate
40 And ask him to his home."
41 "By my mother's shroud, he is full proud!
42 What earthly man is he?"
43 "I know not in truth," quoth the trembling youth,
44 "If earthly man it be:
45 "In reveller's plight he is bedight,
46 With a vest of the crim'sy meet;
47 But his mantle behind, that streams on the wind,
48 Is a corse's bloody sheet."
49 "Out! paltry child! thy wits are wild,
50 Thy comrade will tell me true: —
51 Say plainly then what thou hast seen,
52 Or dearly shalt thou rue."
53 Then spoke the second page with fear,
54 And bent him on his knee,
55 "Were I on your father's sword to swear,
56 The same it appeared to me."
57 "And is there ne'er of my vassals here,
58 Of low or high degree,
59 That will unto this stranger go, —
60 Will go for the love of me?"
61 Then spoke and said fierce Donald the Red,
62 (A fearless man was he,)
63 "Yes; I will straight to the castle gate,
64 Lord John, for the love of thee."
65 With heart full stout he hied him out,
66 While silent all remain:
67 Nor moved a tongue those gallants among,
68 Till Donald returned again.
69 "Speak," said his Lord, "by thy hopes of grace!
70 What stranger must we hail?"
71 But the haggard looks of Donald's face
72 Made his faltering words to fail.
73 "It is a knight in some foreign guise, —
74 His like did I never behold,
75 For the stony look of his beamless eyes
76 Made my very life-blood cold.
77 "I did him greet in fashion meet,
78 And bade him your feast to partake;
79 But the voice that spoke when he silence broke
80 Made the earth beneath me quake.
81 "O, such a tone did tongue ne'er own,
82 That moved in mortal head;
83 It is like a sound from the hollow ground, —
84 Like the voice of the coffined dead!
85 "I bade him to your social board,
86 But in he will not hie,
87 Until at the gate this castle's Lord
88 Shall entreat him courteously.
89 "And a ghastly smile o'er his visage past,
90 As he sternly bade me say,
91 'It was no vassal who lured your guest
92 To that feast of the woody Bay.'"
93 Pale grew the Baron, and faintly said,
94 As he heaved his breath with pain,
95 "From such a feast, as there was spread,
96 Do any return again?
97 "I bade my guest to a bloody feast,
98 Where the death's-wound was his fare,
99 And the Isle's bright Maid who my love betrayed,
100 She tore her raven hair.
101 "The sea-fowl screams and the watch-tower gleams,
102 And the deafening billows roar,
103 Where he, unblest, was put to rest
104 On a wild and distant shore.
105 "Do the hollow grave and the whelming wave
106 Give up their dead again?
107 Doth the surgy waste waft o'er its breast
108 The spirits of the slain?
109 But the Baron's limbs shook fast, and poured
110 The big drops from his brow,
111 As louder still the third time roared
112 The thundering gate below.
113 "O rouse thee, Baron, for manhood's worth!
114 Let good or ill befall,
115 Thou must to the stranger knight go forth,
116 And ask him to your hall."
117 "Rouse thy bold breast," said each eager guest,
118 "What boots it shrinking so?
119 Be it fiend or sprite, or murdered knight,
120 In God's name thou must go.
121 "Why should'st thou fear? dost thou not wear
122 A gift from the great Glendower, —
123 Sandals blest by a holy Priest,
124 O'er which nought ill hath power?"
125 All ghastly pale Lord John did quail,
126 As he turned him to the door,
127 And his sandals blest by a holy Priest
128 Sound feebly on the floor.
129 Then back to the hall and his merry mates all
130 A parting look he sent; —
131 "God send thee, amain, safe back again!"
132 His head he sadly bent.
133 Then listened they on the lengthened way
134 To his faint and lessening tread,
135 And, when that was past, to the wailing blast,
136 That wailed as for the dead.
137 But wilder it grew, and stronger it blew,
138 And it rose with an elrich sound,
139 Till the lofty Keep on its rocky steep
140 Fell hurling to the ground.
141 Each fearful eye then glanced on high
142 To the lofty windowed wall,
143 When a fiery trace of the Baron's face
144 Through the casements shone on all.
145 But the visioned glare passed through the air,
146 And the raging tempest ceased,
147 And never more, on sea or shore,
148 Was seen Lord John of the East.
149 The sandals blest by a holy Priest
150 Lay unscathed on the swarded green;
151 But never again, on land or main,
152 Lord John of the East was seen.
About this text
Title (in Source Edition): LORD JOHN OF THE EAST, A Ballad.
Author: Joanna Baillie
Genres: ballad metre
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Typography, spelling, capitalization, and punctuation have been cautiously modernized. The source of the text is given and all significant editorial interventions have been recorded in textual notes. This ECPA text has been edited to conform to the recommendations found in Level 5 of the Best Practices for TEI in Libraries version 4.0.0.
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