Albert and Cecilia,
a Norman Tale.
Founded on Fact.
1 A FAIRER form than fiction ever feign'd;
2 A bloom surpassing far the opening rose;
3 Eyes where with softness animation reign'd;
4 A heart that sympathiz'd in others' woes:
5 Such was Cecilia — ere a father's pride
6 Clouded the noon-tide of a morn so bright;
7 Condemn'd each feeling nature sanctified,
8 And clos'd each beauty in eternal night.
9 The haughty Anselm, of his riches vain —
10 Vain of his ancestry and high estate —
11 View'd unassuming merit with disdain,
12 Or thought it only centred in the Great,
13 Each day, to win the young Cecilia's smiles,
14 The neighb'ring barons to his castle throng,
15 And boast their ancient sires, whose warlike toils
16 Still crown the historian's page, and poet's song.
17 But vain the boast of each contending peer —
18 Vainly to win Cecilia's smiles they try;
19 No voice but Albert's gains her pensive ear —
20 No form but Albert's charms her down-cast eye.
21 Oft she forsakes her father's splendid halls,
22 And hastes impatient to the waving shade;
23 Where Albert, while the tear of pity falls,
24 Unfolds his hopeless passion to the maid.
25 No sounding title favour'd Albert's claim;
26 Fortune to him her gifts did ne'er impart:
27 But kinder Nature gave the loveliest frame,
28 And gave (much more) the most unblemish'd heart.
29 What hours of happiness the lovers prov'd
30 While in soft converse pass'd the livelong day;
31 While each confess'd how ardently they lov'd,
32 And vow'd no time their passion should allay!
33 O Sensibility! how truly blest
34 Is the fond mind in thy sensations lost!
35 More dear the pang that rends the feeling breast,
36 Than all that calm, dull apathy can boast.
37 Long did Cecilia nurse the rising flame,
38 And Albert's tender vows in secret hear;
39 Nor yet had envy, or censorious fame,
40 Divulg'd the tale to Anselm's watchful ear.
41 When, as mild Evening o'er the varying sky
42 Dispers'd rich clouds of gold and purple hue;
43 And panting flocks along the meadows lie,
44 Cool'd by the freshness of the falling dew —
45 With cautious steps Cecilia sought the bower,
46 Whose shade encircled all her soul held dear;
47 While anxious Albert counts the tedious hour,
48 Now cheer'd by hope, and now deprest by fear:
49 But, when he saw his lov'd Cecilia nigh,
50 Each gloomy care forsook his boding breast;
51 And gay delight beam'd sparkling from his eye,
52 Blest in her presence, in her kindness blest.
53 The heart's emotions in each face appear;
54 The glow of transport brightens on each cheek —
55 The glance of joy, the sympathetic tear,
56 More than a thousand words, their passion speak.
57 The youth enraptur'd kneeling thank'd the maid;
58 Then both renew'd their vows of endless love:
59 Unhappy pair! your passion is betray'd —
60 Fatal to both those vows must shortly prove:
61 For, as it chanc'd, in that ill-fated hour
62 Near the green arbour Anselm musing pass'd;
63 Heard their discourse, and, entering in the bower,
64 The trembling lovers sunk confus'd, aghast!
65 "Degenerate girl!" the angry father cried,
66 "Who thus canst stoop to this ignoble choice;
67 " And dare to wound a Norman baron's pride,
68 "Unmov'd by Duty's ties, or Honour's voice!
69 "No more I own thee as my fortune's heir;
70 " Thy boasted charms to me no joys impart:
71 "For, shock'd by thy ingratitude, I tear
72 " Parental fondness from this injur'd heart.
73 "And thou, presuming youth! who durst aspire
74 " Proudly to join thy humble name with mine,
75 "Take the detested object you desire — —
76 " Thy lov'd Cecilia shall be ever thine,
77 "If to the summit of yon verdant hill,
78 " Whose lofty brow o'erlooks this ample plain,
79 "You bear the maid; nor rest a moment, till
80 " Ev'n to the top thy venturous steps attain. "
81 What mighty task will daring love refuse,
82 The object of its fond pursuits to gain?
83 Who in delusion's flattering mirror views
84 And grasps at shadows it can ne'er obtain.
85 The youth undaunted clasps the trembling fair,
86 Nor thinks the dangerous trial to decline:
87 "This happy hour," he cries, "ends all my care,
88 " And makes thee, dear Cecilia! ever mine. "
89 With eager haste he pass'd the level green,
90 And rapidly he climbs the steep ascent;
91 While numerous vassals throng'd to view the scene,
92 And prayers to Heaven for their deliverance sent.
93 Sadly prophetic of impending woe,
94 Cecilia's bosom heav'd with many a sigh;
95 And, while the tears of bitter anguish flow,
96 She fix'd on Albert an attentive eye.
97 "Alas!" she cried, and half suppress'd a tear,
98 "Yon fatal summit distant still I view."
99 "Chase, my Cecilia!" he replied, "each fear;
100 " Love shall his votary with new strength endue. "
101 But Albert now no longer can conceal
102 His vigour lost: he climbs the hill with pain;
103 His fainting limbs a death-like languor feel,
104 And scarce his arms their lovely load sustain.
105 "Speak, my Cecilia! tell me that you love;
106 " Your voice can energetic force impart:
107 "Smile, and your lover shall triumphant prove."
108 She forc'd a smile, and press'd him to her heart.
109 Mute the spectators stand with anxious fear:
110 When Albert falters every cheek turns pale;
111 And smiles of gladness on each face appear
112 When love still strives where human efforts fail.
113 At length their hearts with generous transports thrill,
114 Shouts of applause from every side arise:
115 Albert has gain'd the summit of the hill,
116 And breathless falls beneath his lovely prize.
117 Cecilia's circling arms around him thrown,
118 Her eyes behold him with exulting pride:
119 She cries, "My Albert, I am thine alone;
120 " No human force can now our fates divide. "
121 His clay-cold hand with fervency she press'd,
122 She gaz'd enamour'd on his faded cheek;
123 "Say, dost thou love like me, like me art blest?
124 " Confirm my happiness — O Albert, speak! "
125 At length, essay'd in vain each tender care
126 Her lover's slumbering senses to restore,
127 By disappointment pierc'd and chill despair,
128 She sunk, and cried — "My Albert is no more!"
129 The fatal accents reach'd the listening crowd,
130 Sorrowing the mournful tidings they relate;
131 "Albert is dead!" they weeping cry aloud —
132 "Albert, whose worth deserv'd a better fate.
133 "May curses light on that unfeeling heart
134 " Which could the blossom of thy youth destroy!
135 "No comfort may his boasted wealth impart,
136 " But keen repentance blast each rising joy! "
137 Such were the words that with discordant sound
138 Whisper'd remorse to Anselm's wounded ear:
139 He felt their force; he heav'd a sigh profound,
140 And pitying dropp'd too late a fruitless tear.
141 With hasty steps he seeks the fatal height,
142 Anxious his yet-lov'd daughter's life to save;
143 That injur'd daughter, once his sole delight,
144 Now by himself devoted to the grave.
145 Mean time, awaken'd by Cecilia's tears,
146 And the sad accent of her piercing cries,
147 His languid head the fainting Albert rears,
148 While Death's dim shadows darken o'er his eyes.
149 "'Tis past, Cecilia! soon approaching Death
150 " Shall steal thy form for ever from my view:
151 "Soon, soon shall I resign this mortal breath,
152 " And, dearer far than life, bid thee adieu.
153 "O grant thy dying Albert's last request:
154 " Be our sad fate engrav'd upon my stone;
155 "That, when the grave at length shall yield me rest,
156 " Our love may be to future ages known!
157 "And thou, dear source of all my grief and joy!
158 " Ne'er let my image from thy thought depart:
159 "When mouldering time shall this weak frame destroy,
160 " Still let me live in my Cecilia's heart! "
161 Faint the last accents falter'd on his tongue;
162 Heavy and dim his closing eyeballs roll;
163 Angels of death around his spirit hung,
164 And opening heaven receiv'd his parting soul.
165 Anselm just then, with pausing steps and slow,
166 Had climb'd the hill, and reach'd its airy brow;
167 Cold round his breast the rustling breezes blow,
168 While birds of night sing plaintive from each bough.
169 Imprest with secret horror, low he bends
170 O'er the sad spot where poor Cecilia lay;
171 Around her form his trembling arms extends,
172 With unknown pity fill'd and deep dismay.
173 He feels her hand has lost its vital heat;
174 He sees her balmy lips no more are red;
175 He finds her icy breast no longer beat;
176 His only child, his dear Cecilia's dead.
177 The wretched father rais'd his eyes to Heaven,
178 In which alone repenting sin can trust;
179 Bewail'd his error, pray'd to be forgiven,
180 And own'd in all his ways the Almighty just.
181 Like lilies cropt by an untimely storm,
182 Fair even in death the hapless lovers lay;
183 Love still appear'd to animate each form,
184 And o'er each visage shed a brightening ray.
185 To both one common tomb the father gave;
186 And, to preserve them in immortal fame,
187 He rais'd a chapel o'er the sacred grave,
188 Which still of the Two Lovers bears the name.