A HERMIT's TALE.
1 FROM prime of youth to hoary age
2 In this lone cell I've dwelt;
3 Here sought, by tracing Nature's page,
4 To soothe the pangs I felt.
5 The moss-wove oaks that near my cave
6 In sullen grandeur stand,
7 And o'er its broken summit wave,
8 Were acorns in my hand.
9 Those time-shook tow'rs, which all forsake,
10 Erect, and gay, I've seen;
11 And half of yon translucent lake,
12 A flow'r-enamell'd green.
13 When shall my penitence and pray'rs
14 Obtain the boon I crave?
15 When shall my thorny bed of cares
16 Become my peaceful grave?
17 Oh worshipp'd reliques! holy book!
18 Detain my mental eye;
19 Nor let it ever backward look
20 To trace sad memory.
21 Or thou! memorial cross of God,
22 My whole attention seize!
23 And bow my heart upon the sod,
24 Worn daily by my knees.
25 Alas! not Piety can heal
26 The soul convuls'd with guilt;
27 Nor all her fountains cleanse the steel
28 Which human blood has spilt.
29 Ah! let me ease it then, and speak
30 The long, long treasur'd tale;
31 What bitter griefs first bade me seek
32 The silence of this vale.
33 Near Cheviot Hills I drew the air
34 On Aran's pleasant plain;
35 My mother was of presence fair,
36 Her sire an aged swain.
37 To tend the flocks was my employ,
38 Nor ever heav'd my breast,
39 When my fond mother blest her boy,
40 At rising, and at rest.
41 Yet oft with tears and smiles she strove,
42 And as I bent my knee,
43 She'd cry, "be juster to thy love,
44 Than mine has been to me."
45 Yet little note of this I took,
46 Unskill'd in worldly harms,
47 And more admir'd my flow'r-bound crook,
48 Than her unequall'd charms.
49 The lowly cot, and shepherd's life,
50 Each night, each morn, she prais'd;
51 And when they spoke of warlike strife,
52 With terror on me gaz'd.
53 For now the wars of Palestine
54 Brave Coeur de Lion fought;
55 While all admir'd the zeal divine,
56 And with his deeds were fraught.
57 The glorious talk to me was good;
58 And as it fill'd my ear,
59 I seem'd to cleave the founding flood,
60 Or grasp a fancied spear.
61 When, lo! the neighbouring Scots, a band
62 Rough as their native rocks,
63 Rush'd like a whirlwind o'er the land,
64 And swept away our flocks.
65 By many an art my mother try'd
66 My vengeance to restrain;
67 But anger argument defy'd,
68 And ev'n her tears were vain.
69 Each swain I bade renounce his crook;
70 Each swain obey'd my voice;
71 The ravagers we soon o'ertook,
72 And left them not a choice.
73 No parle did either party use,
74 Impell'd by fierce disdain;
75 One sought as men who'd all to lose,
76 The other to regain.
77 Day faintly purpled o'er the sky
78 When the fell fight began;
79 But ere our stubborn foes would fly,
80 The Sun his course had ran.
81 Thus we retriev'd our fleecy store,
82 So late bewail'd as lost,
83 And seem'd, I ween, to love them more,
84 For all the blows they cost.
85 Not Richard's self his warriors led
86 More proudly o'er the deep,
87 Than I for Aran's pastures sped,
88 Surrounded by my sheep.
89 As nigh I drew, the clouds did roll
90 A crimson o'er the night;
91 The valley flam'd — and my full soul
92 Died in me at the fight.
93 Another band of those who roam
94 Our hamlet had destroy'd:
95 And while we fought to guard our home,
96 Had made that home a void.
97 A while I wept, and duteous sought
98 My parents dear remains;
99 At length my heart, with vengeance fraught,
100 An useless grief disdains.
101 I rouz'd the swains who yet deplor'd
102 Each desolated field;
103 I turn'd my sheep-hook to a sword,
104 My scrip into a shield.
105 The savage Scots I swore t'annoy
106 With ever-loud alarms,
107 And from a simple shepherd-boy,
108 Became renown'd in arms.
109 Between both lands strong tow'rs I rear
110 With captive ensigns bright:
111 One nation gaz'd on them with fear;
112 The other with delight.
113 Around I station'd many a band,
114 Who dubious stragglers sought;
115 And ah! one day, by love's command,
116 A matchless beauty brought.
117 Her mien majestic seem'd to speak
118 Th' unsullied soul within;
119 No rose like that on her pure cheek
120 Blooms o'er the face of sin.
121 Oh! not in grace the mountain pine
122 With her slight form could vye,
123 The blue that paints the arch divine
124 Was faint to her bright eye.
125 Like a rich group of yellow sheaves,
126 In ringlets wild, her hair
127 Play'd on her breast — so Autumn leaves
128 Hang on the lily fair.
129 Awe-struck, my soul imbib'd a flame
130 As virtuous as sincere;
131 Nor dared I boldly ask the name,
132 I most desir'd to hear.
133 Unconscious of her beauty's blaze,
134 She drew away the shade;
135 With dignity endur'd my gaze,
136 And thus to speak essay'd.
137 "Although by force I hither bend
138 " The captive of thy sword,
139 "From brutal hands I seek a friend,
140 " Nor need I own a Lord.
141 "Of English blood thy servant came,
142 " Not from a hostile line,
143 "Lord Ethel is my Father's name,
144 " And Ethelinda mine.
145 "To Scotland with my Mother sent,
146 " A Grandsire's eyes to close,
147 "Her sum of days like his are spent,
148 " With him she finds repose.
149 "Ev'n now on silver Severn's side
150 " My Father anxiously
151 "Forgets the day my Mother dy'd,
152 " To look in vain for me.
153 "By Knighthood's holy laws, oh Youth!
154 " I therefore claim your gage,
155 "That you yield him with care, and truth,
156 " The darling of his age.
157 "So may the peace to him you give
158 " With large increase return;
159 "So crown'd with conquest may you live,
160 " And glory crown your urn! "
161 "Be safe," I cried, "thou lovely Maid;
162 " By warlike Richard's throne,
163 "Ne'er shall she vainly ask my aid,
164 " Whom truth and honor own.
165 "By Knighthood's holy laws I swear,
166 " And give th' unquestion'd gage,
167 "To yield thy Sire, with truth, and care,
168 " The darling of his age.
169 "To horse, to horse, each vassal knight,
170 " Prepare your burnish'd arms;
171 "Diffuse around a dazzling light,
172 " To hide, and guard, these charms.
173 "A Nymph beyond ev'n Helen fair,
174 " Bestows a nobler trust;
175 "A Youth her beauty well might snare,
176 " Is Man, in love — yet just. "
177 And soon my warriors o'er the waste
178 In gay profusion roll;
179 The Lady in the centre plac'd,
180 Irradiated the whole.
181 Still as we journied on, I sought,
182 With love's unconscious art,
183 T' impress myself on ev'ry thought,
184 'Till I had won her heart.
185 And now my fears would often hint
186 Her Sire might prove unkind,
187 And wiser 'twere our trust to stint,
188 But duteous was her mind.
189 "Ah doubt not, Edmund," — she would say,
190 "Thy worth must all engage;
191 " Nor dare I scorn a father's sway,
192 "Nor dare I grieve his age.
193 "His silver'd head, as lilies bow,
194 " Declining now appears;
195 "Alike his frame doth tremble now,
196 " With tenderness and years.
197 "And sure a fearful joy she knows
198 " Who unpermitted loves;
199 "While doubly hallow'd are the vows
200 " A parent's voice approves. "
201 "More fondly draws the heart's dear chain,
202 " When watching his decay;
203 "Oh! the sad charm, to know his pain
204 " In blessings melts away! "
205 Fill'd with her love, sooth'd with her hope,
206 The present hour I blest;
207 And gave luxuriant fancy scope,
208 Who more enrich'd the rest.
209 When now we reach'd fair Severn's side,
210 Where 'mid her fairest bow'rs,
211 A mountain swell'd with verdant pride,
212 Crown'd with Lord Ethel's tow'rs.
213 As to the height we gaily wound,
214 From apprehension free,
215 Surpriz'd we heard the drum's fierce sound,
216 Proclaim an enemy.
217 Like shining swarms of bees, in arms
218 The Knights now multiply;
219 And pleasure's notes, and war's alarms,
220 Our mingling trumpets cry.
221 When proud I did the Lady shew, —
222 Who bade all discord cease;
223 More radiant than the vernal bow,
224 Heav'ns own bright pledge of peace,
225 Her name, in various accents cried,
226 Was borne away within,
227 While the vast portals opening wide,
228 Increas'd the joyful din.
229 Forth rush'd, tumultuous as the wind,
230 Knights who no longer frown'd;
231 But marching with their spears declin'd,
232 A mute obedience own'd.
233 At once, dividing to each side,
234 Like waves the train retire;
235 And as the swan floats with the tide,
236 Slow came the rev'rend Sire.
237 The gift of health, an aged bloom,
238 His manly cheek confest;
239 And white his locks, as erst the plume,
240 That quiver'd o'er his crest.
241 The Maid oppress'd with tender pain,
242 And, than the hart more fleet,
243 Now graceful shot along the plain,
244 And panted at his feet.
245 Have you not seen the fragile rose,
246 Droop with the gems of morn?
247 So fair the kneeling Virgin shews,
248 A Parent's tears adorn.
249 Have you not seen the purple vine
250 With Autumn hoar embost?
251 Youth with such loveliness divine,
252 Glows wrapt in age's frost.
253 "Oh most belov'd!" her father cried,
254 And fast his tears would fall,
255 "My youth's delight, my age's pride,
256 " My little earthly all!
257 "Thy safe return in peace, and health,
258 " Doth all my griefs assuage:
259 "Thy safe return doth spare my wealth,
260 " And ah! doth spare my age. "
261 He said, and turning to a Knight,
262 Upon whose brow serene,
263 Sat grace attemper'd with delight,
264 While valor mark'd his mien.
265 "See, Baron," added he, "thy Bride;
266 " My child, behold the Son,
267 "Allotted for thy Lord, and guide,
268 " When thy fond father's gone.
269 "Ah venerate that hallow'd shield,
270 " Upon whose orb the cross,
271 "Declares, in many a well-fought field,
272 " The Saracens vast loss.
273 "With grateful love accept the hand,
274 " But for whose aid, forlorn,
275 "And fatherless, thou now mightst stand,
276 " Nor I hail thy return. "
277 My soul, as with an ague shook,
278 At once both froze and burn'd;
279 When she, not deigning him a look,
280 All tearful to me turn'd.
281 "Behold," she faltering said, "the sword
282 " Which set thy daughter free;
283 "Approve a heart where I'm ador'd —
284 " Where I alone would be. —
285 "Could I from duty have been won,
286 " His honor to reward,
287 "I should have call'd this Knight thy son,
288 " And claim'd a like regard.
289 "Oh! think, tho' fortune freed his will,
290 " With reverence he woo'd;
291 "Oh! rise above the thought of ill —
292 " Remember gratitude. —
293 "That claim I never will disown;
294 " Your pow'r may bid me weep —
295 "But tears, like falling drops on stone,
296 " The heart's-wound wear more deep. "—
297 The Baron's eyes blaz'd thro' the snow
298 Of age, with Hecla's fire;
299 And red his haughty blushes glow,
300 While thus he speaks his ire.
301 "And who then art thou, nameless Youth?
302 From whence deriv'd that flood,
303 " Which dyes thy cheek with nature's truth,
304 "And vies with Ethel's blood?
305 "Where are the honors of thy line?
306 " Unblazon'd on thy arms;
307 "Which thou presum'st to blend with mine,
308 " Vain of ignoble charms. —
309 "Knowst thou, the spoils of many a Knight
310 " Descend to me alone?
311 "Knowst thou the lands within thy sight,
312 " This Maid will one day own?
313 "Learn, Youth, to ask some fit reward,
314 " Which with thy rank agrees;
315 "And fame, and wealth, and high regard,
316 " Thy anger shall appease. "
317 "Hold, Lord," I cried, "nor meanly boast,
318 " Degraded ancestry;
319 "Thy honors in thyself are lost,
320 " While mine begin in me.
321 "But let us prove this vaunted blood,
322 " This elevated line;
323 "And see if Edmund's humble flood,
324 " Nerve not his arm like thine.
325 "For while firm youth shall brace his hand,
326 " And love his ardent heart,
327 "The matchless Maid he will demand,
328 " Who forms its dearest part.
329 "Come then, ye knights, your well-tried arms
330 " In deadly wrath produce,
331 "While ours, unwrought for such alarms,
332 " Gain strength alone from use. "
333 Alost I wav'd my sword of pow'r,
334 The spiral lustre run,
335 And like the Guard of Eden's bow'r,
336 Flam'd to the noon-day sun.
337 While thus we met, with equal ire,
338 Before my sorrowing eyes,
339 The proud inexorable Sire
340 Bore off the beauteous prize.
341 Oh! if ye ever knew to melt
342 In passion's tender glow,
343 I need not paint the pangs I felt,
344 At this extreme of woe.
345 Oh! if ye ever yet have rag'd,
346 Oppress'd by savage pow'r,
347 Ye well will guess the war we wag'd,
348 The fierceness of that hour.
349 The sun unheeded veil'd his head,
350 While many a casque was riv'n;
351 And that last darkness seem'd to spread,
352 Which mingles earth with heav'n.
353 Yet still in mortal conflict join'd,
354 No respite we allow,
355 'Till oft, by heaven's wild fires, we find
356 A friend slain for a foe.
357 Humanity at length o'er pride
358 Prevail'd, and sooth'd this heat;
359 We deem'd, 'till day-light should decide,
360 'Twere valour to retreat.
361 But on the morn, at Ethel's word,
362 Lord-marcher of the land,
363 Indignant thousands on us pour'd,
364 Nor could we more withstand.
365 My Knights, despoil'd of armor, peace
366 Accepted as a boon;
367 My sword alone they dar'd not seize;
368 How useless when alone!
369 What then was all my early fame!
370 The wealth by valor giv'n!
371 What then, alas! even virtue's flame!
372 Th' united gifts of heav'n!
373 Lost to my heart its only joy,
374 Extinct at once its flights;
375 Sad images my days employ,
376 And sadder still my nights.
377 The bridal feast approach'd, the vests
378 To many a fair were shewn,
379 Full was the Baron's hall of guests,
380 Myself forbid alone.
381 All hope now lost, I wild arose,
382 And soon within the bound,
383 Where piety adores the cross,
384 My feet unconscious found.
385 Impell'd by destiny, I past
386 When struck the vesper bell, —
387 A dreary eye around I cast,
388 And own'd it as my knell.
389 When lo! approaching fast, the tread
390 Of warlike steps I heard,
391 I turn'd, and as by justice led,
392 My Rival there appear'd.
393 With wonder, blessing ev'ry shrine,
394 I drew the well-worn blade,
395 "One moment yet," I cried, "is mine —
396 " Deserve, or lose the Maid. "
397 Impetuous love each sinew strung,
398 As we by turns assail'd;
399 And long the vict'ry doubtful hung,
400 But oh! my fate prevail'd.
401 At length, between th' ill-jointed mail,
402 My sword a passage found,
403 Fast rush'd the stream of life, and pale
404 He dropt upon the ground.
405 While sighs of rage from his proud breast
406 Impell'd the vital flood,
407 A thousand pangs his eye confest,
408 Beyond the waste of blood.
409 "Ignoble Lord," I cried, "she's mine,
410 " On holy land you lie —
411 "Call to your aid the pow'r divine,
412 " Repent, before you die. "
413 "Ah, say'st thou?" groan'd he, "holy land!
414 " 'Twas there my sins began;
415 "For thither, heedless of command,
416 " In early youth I ran. "
417 "Broke too the unacknowledg'd tye
418 " An humble love had made;
419 "And left the charm of ev'ry eye
420 " In infamy to fade.
421 "Alas! perhaps on Aran's plain
422 " She yet exists forlorn!
423 "With Albert's heir, a fancied swain,
424 " From lineal honors torn.
425 "To Basil's daughter, my true bride,
426 " This ring restore again. —
427 "To Basil's daughter!" I replied,
428 "What, Emma of the plain?"
429 He groan'd assent — thro' all my frame
430 Did cold convulsions run —
431 "You see," I falter'd, "void of name,
432 " That miserable son —
433 "The murder'd Emma's only joy" —
434 He bent to earth his head:
435 "Oh do not more than kill me, boy!"
436 All-agoniz'd he said.
437 "Yet while I've strength the truth to groan,
438 " To yonder convent run,
439 "Bid here the Monks, that I may own
440 " In you, my heir, my son. "
441 Already did th' unwonted sound
442 The vesper rites restrain;
443 And forth the holy Fathers wound,
444 A venerable train.
445 With consecrated lights they star
446 The bosom of the earth,
447 And list with hallow'd zeal afar,
448 The blessing of our birth.
449 Before the cross the dying Lord,
450 With penitential awe,
451 In silence first his God ador'd,
452 And mourn'd his broken law:
453 Then raising to the Monks his eyes,
454 Where life's last lustre play'd,
455 "Suspend these sacred rites," he cries,
456 'Till I deserve your aid. —
457 "If struggling thus with shame and death,
458 " I dare avow a truth,
459 "Confirm'd by my expiring breath,
460 " Oh vindicate this Youth!
461 "Inform my Liege, that led by pride,
462 " Yet by fond passion won,
463 "In early youth I chose a bride,
464 " I ever scorn'd to own.
465 "With impious zeal, the band I join'd
466 " He led to Palestine,
467 "And with false glory fir'd my mind,
468 " T' elude the wrath divine.
469 "With him I ev'ry danger dar'd,
470 " Which mark'd the proud crusade;
471 "With him a prison's gloom I shar'd,
472 " Nor selt my soul upbraid. —
473 "While in our Northern wilds was born
474 " This Youth, whose energy
475 "Has from its seat that being torn,
476 " Which gave him first to be —
477 "Since justly then, in flow'r of health,
478 " I expiate thus my pride,
479 "Oh may he give my heir my wealth,
480 " My name — alas, my Bride!
481 "Unhappy Boy! if for thy fire
482 " These streaming sorrows flow,
483 "To save his soul from endless fire,
484 " Perennial pray'rs bestow. "
485 He died — nor had I time to think
486 On all I'd lost, or won, —
487 I hover'd on creation's brink,
488 And clung to love alone.
489 The busy Monks remov'd the corse,
490 The arms alone remain'd;
491 When fraud effected, what nor force,
492 Nor supplication gain'd.
493 Incumber'd with Lord Albert's mail,
494 A desperate hope I try'd,
495 And soon the hostile mountain scale,
496 Where now the gates flew wide.
497 The high-arch'd halls I safely past,
498 Thro' lucid heraldry,
499 Where echo to the midnight blast
500 Sigh'd wild, and loud as me.
501 'Till the lone gallery now appear'd
502 Enrich'd with pond'rous mail,
503 Where many a banner, time-endear'd,
504 Slow rustled to the gale.
505 Upon its gilded sides pourtray'd,
506 Magnificently old,
507 Each ancestor's distinguish'd shade
508 Gave lustre to the gold.
509 The snowy plumes appear to wave,
510 And arms, and forms divine,
511 Defend the honors which they gave,
512 Or deify the line.
513 On me all seem to turn their eyes
514 Prophetic with my doom,
515 Then, like the rainbow's transient dyes,
516 They melt into a gloom.
517 Beyond — all open — silent — dim —
518 The length'ning rooms extend,
519 Where tapers shed a quiv'ring gleam,
520 Each moment strove to end.
521 With bold despair I thither past,
522 My sate's extremes to prove;
523 'Till ent'ring, with rude step, the last,
524 I saw my long-lost love.
525 Careless she view'd those arms so fam'd,
526 Nor once remov'd her eyes;
527 "Rests Ethelinda," I exclaim'd,
528 "While ruin'd Edmund dies?
529 "Or tir'd of having thus withstood,
530 " Resolves she on a crime?
531 "But Hymen's torch is quench'd in blood,
532 " And yielded up to time. "
533 "By miracle since thou art come,"
534 She falter'd out, "t' attest
535 " With heav'n my melancholy doom,
536 "I trust to that the rest.
537 "Unjust and cruel — if you knew —
538 " What, doubt my passion yet?
539 "Edmund, this heart, forever true,
540 " Could break, but not forget.
541 "Each blush which deepen'd on my cheek,
542 " Declar'd my love's excess;
543 "Oh learn to think that passion weak,
544 " Which language can express —
545 "And when the last fond crimson flies
546 " With my expiring breath,
547 "Then, then, allow the sacrifice,
548 " And own my love — in death.
549 "Alas! ev'n now that hour is come —
550 " For think not I would be,
551 "While herbs afford a mortal bloom,
552 " A Bride, and not to thee. "
553 While yet she spoke, the roseate hue,
554 Which on her soft cheek play'd,
555 And her bright eyes celestial blue
556 Began apace to fade.
557 O'er her transparent tender skin
558 An icy polish spread;
559 A nerveless torpor crept within,
560 As she ev'n then were dead.
561 More cold, and cold, that heart now grew,
562 Which gave such rich supplies;
563 More slow, and slow, her breath she drew,
564 'Till it was nought but sighs.
565 And now, beyond the grief of thought —
566 And now devoid of bloom —
567 She seem'd a beauteous statue, wrought
568 To grace her own sad tomb.
569 Astounded — hopeless — reckless — lost —
570 O'er the fair form, tho' dead,
571 Fond fancy's wish, vain reason's boast,
572 My heart in silence bled —
573 No voice its solitude could break —
574 No object win my eye —
575 Not ev'n her sire's complaints could wake
576 A keener agony.
577 Alas! to him who caus'd the grief,
578 Relenting fortune gave
579 A sudden, and a long relief,
580 In Ethelinda's grave.
581 The Monks Lord Albert's will assert —
582 The King allow'd my claim —
583 When did they know a breaking heart
584 Revive upon a name?
585 Impatient of the proud controul,
586 And thankless for each care,
587 To all these comforters my soul,
588 Sigh'd only out — despair —
589 Of ev'ry human hope forlorn,
590 All-desolate I ran,
591 Wild as these woods, in them to mourn
592 The miseries of Man.
593 Oft on the hill, the hunters hear
594 The sadly vocal gale,
595 And turn aside with holy fear,
596 Nor dare the copse assail.
597 Ev'n the wild deer, with look profound,
598 My sorrows seem to share,
599 And ev'ry groaning tree around
600 But echoes my despair —
601 'Till sometimes, thought's aërial brood,
602 A wan, and num'rous train,
603 Fantastic sons of solitude,
604 Catch life from my wild brain. —
605 Full threescore times the frosts have bound
606 All streams but from these eyes,
607 Since here my care-worn limbs first found
608 A refuge from the skies.
609 Years upon years thus slowly roll,
610 Nor comfort bring to me,
611 Since ev'n in sleep my active soul
612 Lives o'er her misery.
613 Dim are my days, and near the hour
614 When death at length is mine;
615 Which only can my bliss restore,
616 Or bid me ne'er repine.
617 Ye generous poor, who send me bread,
618 When on my rushy couch,
619 Your little offspring find me dead,
620 With pious hearts approach —
621 Hide me in earth, and consecrate
622 With tears this simple tale,
623 So may you ever 'scape the fate
624 Of Edmund of the Vale.