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Though much he fret, and chafe, and toil,
Till all his eddying currents boil,
Her long-descended lord is gone,
And left us by the stream alone.
And much I miss those sportive boys,
Companions of my mountain joys,
Just at the age 'twixt boy and youth,
When thought is speech, and speech is truth.
Close to my side with what delight,
They press’d to hear of Wallace wight,
When, pointing to his airy mound,
I callid his ramparts holy ground !*
Kindled their brows to hear me speak;
And I have smiled, to feel my cheek,
Despite the difference of our years,
Return again the glow of theirs.
Ah! happy boys ! such feelings pure,
They will not, cannot long endure;
Condemn'd to stem the world's rude tide,
You may not linger by the side ;
For fate shall thrust you from the shore,
And passion ply the sail and oar.
Yet cherish the remembrance still,
Of the lone mountain, and the rill;
For trust, dear boys, the time will come
When fiercer transports shall be dumb,
And you will think, right frequently,
But, well I hope, without a sigh,
On the free hours that we have spent,
Together, on the brown hill's bent.
When, musing on companions gone, We doubly feel ourselves alone, Something, my friend, we yet may gain,There is a pleasure in this pain : It soothes the love of lonely rest, Deep in each gentler heart impress'd. 'Tis silent, amid worldly toils, And stined soon by mental broils ; But, in a bosom thus prepared, Its still small voice is often heard, Whispering a mingled sentiment, Twixt resignation and content. Oft in my mind such thoughts awake, By lone St. Mary's silent lake : Thou know'st it well,-nor fen, nor sedge, Pollute the pure lake's crystal edge; Abrupt and sheer, the mountains sink At once upon the level brink; And just a trace of silver sand Marks where the water meets the land. Far in the mirror bright and blue, Each hill's huge outline you may view ; Shaggy with heath, but lonely bare, Nor tree, nor bush, nor brake is there, Save where, of land, yon slender line Bears thwart the lake the scatter'd pine. Yet e’en this nakedness has power, And aids the feeling of the hour; Nor thicket, dell, nor copse you spy, Where living thing conceal'd might lie; Nor point, retiring, hides a dell, Where swain, or woodman lone, might dwell;
There's nothing left to fancy's guess,
You see that all is loneliness :
And silence aids—though the steep hills
Send to the lake a thousand rilis;
In summer tide, so soft they weep,
The sound but lulls the ear asleep;
Your horse's hoof-tread sounds too rude,
So stilly is the solitude.
Naught living meets the eye or ear,
But well I ween the dead are near;
For though, in feudal strife, a foe
Hath laid Our Lady's chapel low,
Yet still beneath the hallow'd soil,
The peasant rests him from his toil,
And, dying, bids his bones be laid,
Where erst his simple fathers pray'd.
If age had tamed the passion's life,
And fate had cut my ties to strife,
Here, have I thought, 'twere sweet to dwell,
And rear again the chaplain's cell,
Like that same peaceful hermitage,
Where Milton longd to spend his age.
'Twere sweet to mark the setting day
On Bourhope's lonely top decay;
And, as it faint and feeble died,
On the broad lake and mountain's side,
To say, “ Thus pleasures fade away;
Youth, talents, beauty, thus decay,
And leave us dark, forlorn, and gray!"
Then gaze on Dryhope's ruin'd tower,
And think on Yarrow's faded flower:
And when that mountain-sound I heard,
Which bids us be for storm prepared,
The distant rustling of his wings,
As up his force the tempest brings,
'Twere sweet, ere yet his terrors rave,
To sit upon the wizard's grave;
That wizard priest's, whose bones are thrust
From company of holy dust ;
On which no sunbeams ever shines-
(So superstition's creed divines,)
Thence view the lake with sullen roar,
Heave her broad billows to the shore;
And mark the wild swans mount the gale,
Spread wide through mist their snowy sail,
And ever stoop again, to lave
Their bosoms on the surging wave;
Then, when against the driving hail,
No longer might my plaid avail,
Back to my lonely home retire,
And light my lamp, and trim my fire:
There ponder o'er some mystic lay,
Till the wild tale had all its sway,
And, in the bittern's distant shriek,
I heard unearthly voices speak,
And thought the wizard priest was come,
To claim again his ancient home!
And bade my busy fancy range
To frame him fitting shape and strange,
Till from the task my brow I clear'd,
And smiled to think that I had fear'd.
But chief, 'twere sweet to think such life, (Though but escape from fortune's strife,) Something most matchless, good, and wise, A great and grateful sacrifice;
* There is on a high mountainous range above the farm of Ashestiel, a fosse called Wallace's Trench.
And deem each hour to musing given,
A step upon the road to heaven.
Yet him, whose heart is ill at ease
Such peaceful solitudes displease :
He loves to drown his bosom’s jar
Amid the elemental war:
And my black palmer's choice had been
Some ruder and more savage
Like that which frowns round dark Lochskene.
There eagles scream from isle to shore ;
Down all the rocks the torrents roar;
O’er the black waves incessant driven,
Dark mists infest the summer heaven;
Through the rude barriers of the lake,
Away its hurrying waters break,
Faster and whiter dash and curl,
Till down yon dark abyss they hurl.
Kises the fog-smoke white as snow,
Thunders the viewless stream below,
Diving, as if condemn'd to lave
Some demon's subterranean cave,
Who, prison'd by enchanter's spell,
Shakes the dark rock with groan and yell.
And well that palmer's form and mien
Had suited with the stormy scene,
Just on the edge, straining his ken,
To view the bottom of the den,
Where, deep, deep down, and far within,
Toils with the rocks the roaring linn:
Then, issuing forth one foamy wave,
And wheeling round the Giant's Grave,
White as the snowy charger's tail,
Drives down the pass of Moffatdale.
Marriot, thy harp, on Isis strung, To many a Border theme has rung: Then list to me, and thou shalt know of this mysterious man of wo.
II. 'Twas sweet to see these holy maids, Liked birds escaped to green wood shades,
Their first light from the cage,
How timid, and how curious, too,
For all to them was strange and new,
And all the common sights they view,
Their wonderment engage.
One eyed the shrouds and swelling sail,
With many a benedicite;
One at the rippling surge grew pale,
And would for terror pray ;
Then shriek’d, because the sea-dog, nigh,
His round black head, and sparkling eye,
Rear'd o'er the foaming spray ;
And one would still adjust her veil,
Disorder'd by the summer gale,
Perchance lest some more worldly eye
Her dedicated charms might spy ;
Perchance, because such action graced
Her fair turn'd arm and slender waist.
Light was each simple bosom there,
Save two, who ill might pleasure share,
The abbess, and the novice Clare.
The abbess was of noble blood,
But early took the veil and hood,
Ere upon life she cast a look,
Or knew the world that she forsook.
Fair, too, she was, and kind had been
As she was fair, but ne'er had seen
For her a timid lover sigh,
Now knew the influence of her eye.
Love, her ear, was but a name,
Combined with vanity and shame;
Her hopes, her fears, her joys, were all
Bounded within the cloister wall:
The deadliest sin her mind could reach,
Was of monastic rule the breach;
And her ambition's highest aim,
To emulate Saint Hilda's fame.
For this she gave her ample dower,
To raise the convent's eastern tower;
For this, with carving rare and quaint,
She deck'd the chapel of the saint;
And gave the relique shrine of cost,
With ivory and gems embost.
The poor her convent's bounty blest,
The pilgrim in its halls found rest.
Black was her garb, her rigid rule
Reform’d on Benedictine school;
Her cheek was pale, her form was spare :
Vigils, and penitence austere
Had early quench'd the light of youth,
But gentle was the dame in sooth;
Though, vain of her religious sway,
She loved to see her maids obey,
Yet nothing stern was she in cell,
And the nuns loved their abbess well.
Sad was this voyage to the dame;
Summond to Lindisfarn, she came,
There, with Saint Cuthbert's abbot old,
And Tynemouth's prioress, to hold
The breeze, which swept away the smoke
Round Norham Castle rollid,
When all the loud artillery spoke,
With lightning-flash, and thunder stroke,
As Marmion left the Hold.
It curl'd not Tweed alone, that breeze,
For, far upon Northumbrian seas
It freshly blew, and strong,
Where, from high Whitby's cloister'd pile,
Bound to saint Cuthbert's Holy Isle,
It bore a bark along.
Upon the gale she stopp'd her side,
And bounded o'er the swelling tide,
As she were dancing home ;
The merry seamen laugh'd, to see
Their gallant ship so lustily
Furrow the green sea-foam. Much joy'd they in their honour'd freight; For, on the deck, in chair of state, The abbess of Saint Hilda placed, With five fair nuns, the galley graced.
A chapter of Saint Benedict,
For inquisition stern and strict,
On two apostates from the faith,
And, if need were, to doom to death.
V. Naught say I here of sister Clare, Save this, that she was young and fair ; As yet a novice unprofess'd, Lovely and gentle, but distress'd. She was betroth'd to one now dead, Or worse, who had dishonour'd fled. Her kinsman bade her give her hand To one, who loved her for her land; Herself, almost heart-broken now, Was bent to take the vestal vow, And shroud, within Saint Hilda's gloom, Her blasted hopes and wither'd bloom.
At Coquet-islc their beads they tell
To the good saint who own'd the cell;
Then did the Alne attention claim,
And Warkworth, proud of Percy's name;
And next they cross'd themselves, to hear
The whitening breakers sound so near,
Where, boiling through the rocks, they roar
On Dunstanborough's cavernd shore:
Thy tower, proud Bamborough, mark'd they
King Ida's castle, huge and square,
From its tall rock look'd grimly down,
And on the swelling ocean frown;
Then from the coast they bore away,
And reach'd the Holy Island's bay.
The tide did now its flood-mark gain,
And girdled in the saint's domain :
For, with the flow and ebb, the style
Varies from continent to isle;
Dryshod, o'er sands, twice every day,
The pilgrims to the shrine find way;
Twice every day, the waves efface
Of staves and sandall’d feet the trace.
As to the port the galley flew,
Higher and higher rose to view
The castle, with its battled wall,
The ancient monastery's hall,
A solemn, rude, and dark-red pile,
Placed on the margin of the isle.
VI. She sate upon the galley's prow, And seem'd to mark the waves below; Nay, seem'd to fix her look and eye, To count them as they glided by. She saw them not-twas seeming allFar other scene her thoughts recall, A sun-scorch'd desert, waste and bare, Nor wave nor breezes, murmur'd there; There saw she, where some careless hand O’er a dead corpse had heap'd the sand, To hide it till the jackalls come, To tear it from the scanty tomb.See what a woful look was given, As she raised up her eyes to heaven!
VII. Lovely, and gentle, and distress'dThese charms might tame the fiercest breast; Harpers have sung, and poets told, That he, in fury uncontrollid, The shaggy monarch of the wood, Before a virgin, fair and good, Hath pacified his savage mood. But passions in the human frame, Oft put the lion's rage to shame; And jealousy, by dark intrigue, With sordid a varice in league, Had practised, with her bowl and knise, Against the mourner's harmless life. This crime was charged 'gainst those who lay Prison'd in Cuthbert's islet gray.
In Saxon strength that abbey frown'd,
With massive arches broad and round,
That rose alternate, row and row,
On ponderous columns, short and low,
Built ere the art was known,
By pointed aisle, and shafted stalk,
The arcades of an alley'd walk
To emulate in stone.
On the deep walls the heathen Dane
Had pour'd his impious rage in vain ;
And needful was such strength to these,
Exposed to the tempestuous seas,
Scourged by the wind's eternal sway,
Open to rovers fierce as they,
Which could twelve hundred years withstand
Winds, waves, and northern pirates' hand.
Not but that portions of that pile,
Rebuilded in a later style,
Show'd where the spoiler's hand had been;
Not but the wasting seabreeze keen
Had worn the pillar's carving quaint,
And moulder'd in his niche the saint,
And rounded, with consuming power,
The pointed angles of each tower:
Yet still entire the abbey stood,
Like veteran, worn, but unsubdued.
VIII. And now the vessel skirts the strand Of mountainous Northumberland, Towns, towers, and halls sucessive rise, And catch the nuns' delighted eyes. Monk Wearmouth soon behind them lay, And Tynemouth's priory and bay; They mark'd, amid her trees, the hall Of Lofty Seaton-Delaval; They saw the Blythe and Wansbeck floods Rush to the sea through sounding woods ; They past the tower of Widderington, Mother of many a valiant son ;
XI. Soon as they neard his turrets strong, The maidens raised Saint Hilda's song,
And with the seawave and the wind, Their voices, sweetly shrill, combined,
And made harmonious close;
O'er northern mountain, marsh, and moor,
From sea to sea, from shore to shore,
Seven years Saint Cuthbert's corpse they bore.
They rested them in fair Melrose;
But though, alive, he loved it well,
Not there bis relics might repose ;
For, wondrous tale to tell!
In his stone coffin forth he rides,
(A ponderous bark for river tides,)
Yet light as gossamer it glides,
Downward to Tillmouth cell.
Nor long was his abiding there,
For southward did the saint repair ;
Chester-le Street, and Rippon, saw
His holy corpse, ere Wardilaw
Hail'd him with joy and fear;
And, after many wanderings past,
He chose his lordly seat at last,
Where his cathedral, huge and vast,
Looks down upon the Wear.
There, deep in Durham's Gothic shade,
His relics are in secret laid ;
But none may know the place,
Save of his holiest servants three,
Deep sworn to solemn secrecy,
Who share that wondrous grace.
Then, answering from the sandy shore,
Half-drown'd amid the breakers' roar,
According chorus rose.
Down to the haven of the Isle,
The monks and nuns in order file,
From Cuthbert's cloisters grim;
Banner, and cross, and reliques there,
To meet Saint Hilda's maids, they bare;
And, as they caught the sounds on air,
They echoed back the hymn.
The islanders, in joyous mood,
Rush'd emulously through the flood,
To hale the bark to land;
Conspicuous by her veil and hood,
Signing the cross the abbess stood,
And bless'd them with her hand.
Suppose we now the welcome said,
Suppose the convent banquet made;
All through the holy dome,
Through cloister, aisle, and gallery,
Wherever vestal maid might pry,
Nor risk to meet unhallow'd eye,
The stranger sisters roam;
Till fell the evening damp with dew,
And the sharp seabreeze coldly blew,
For there, e'en summer night is chill.
Then, having stray'd and gazed their fill,
They closed around the fire;
And all, in turn, essay'd to paint
The rival merits of their saint,
A theme that ne'er can tire
A holy maid ; for, be it known,
That their saint's honour is their own.
Then Whitby's nuns exulting told,
How to their house three baron's bold
Must menial service do ;
While horns blow out a note of shame,
And monks cry, “ Fy upon your name!
In wrath, for loss of sylvan game,
Saint Hilda's priest ye slew.”
“ This, on Ascension-day, each year,
While labouring on our harbour-pier,
Must Herbert, Bruce, and Percy hear.”
They told how, in their convent cell,
A Saxon princess once did dwell,
The lovely Edelfled;
And how, of thousand snakes, each one
Was changed into a coil of stone,
When holy Hilda pray'd.
Themselves, within their holy bound,
Their stony folds had often found.
They told, how seafowls' pinions fail,
As over Whitby's towers they sail,
And, sinking down, with flutterings faint,
They do their homage to the saint.
Nor did Saint Cuthbert's daughters fail
To vie with these in holy tale ;
His body's resting-place, of old,
How oft their patron changed, they told ;
How, when the rude Dane burn'd their pile,
The monks fled forth from Holy Isle ;
Who may his miracles declare !
E’en Scotland's dauntless king, and heir
(Although with them they led
Galwegians, wild as ocean's gale,
And London's knights, all sheathed in mail,
And the bold men of Teviotdale,)
Before his standard fled.
'Twas he, to vindicate his reign,
Edged Alfred's falchion on the Dane,
And turn'd the conqueror back again,
When, with his Norman bowyer band,
He came to waste Northumberland.
But fain Saint Hilda's nups would learn,
If, on a rock, by Lindisfarn,
Saint Cuthbert sits, and toils to frame
The seaborn beads that bear his name:
Such tales had Whitby's fishers told,
And said they might his shape behold,
And hear his anvil sound;
A dcaden'd clang, a huge dim form,
Seen but, and heard, when gathering stort,
And night were closing round. But this, as tale of idle fame, The nuns of Lindisfarn disclaim,
XVII. While round the fire such legends go, Far different was the scene of wo, Where, in a secret aisle beneath, Council was held of life and death. It was more dark and lone, that vault,
Than the worst dungeon cell; Old Colwulf built it, for his fault,
In penitence to dwell, When he, for cowl and beads, laid down The Saxon battle-axe and crown.
This den, which, chilling every sense
Of feeling, hearing, sight,
Was call'd the vault of penitence,
Excluding air and light,
Was, by the prelate Sexhelm, made
A place of burial, for such dead
As, having died in mortal sin,
Might not be laid the church within.
'Twas now a place of punishment;
Whence, if so loud a shriek were sent,
As reach'd the upper air,
The hearers bless'd themselves, and said,
The spirits of the sinful dead
Bemoan'd their torments there.
But though, in the monastic pile,
Did of this penitential aisle
Some vague tradition go,
Few only, save the abbot, knew
Where the place lay; and still more few
Were those, who had from him the clew
To that dread vault to go. Victim and executioner Were blindfold when transported there. In low dark rounds the arches hung, From the rude rock the side walls sprung; The gravestones rudely sculptured o'er, Half sunk in earth, by time half wore, Were all the pavement of the floor; The mildew drops fell one by one, With tinkling plash, upon the stone. A cresset,* in an iron chain, Which served to light this drear domain, With damp and darkness seem'd to strive, As if it scarce might keep alive; And yet it dimly served to show The awful conclave met below.
There, met to doom in secrecy,
Were placed the heads of convents three;
All servants of Saint Benedict,
The statutes of whose orders strict
On iron table lay;
In long black dress, on seats of stone,
Behind were these three judges shown,
By the pale cresset's ray:
The abbess of Saint Hilda, there,
Sate for a space with visage bare,
Until, to hide her bosom's swell,
And teardrops that for pity fell,
She closely drew her veil:
Yon shrouded figure, as I guess,
By her proud mien and flowing dress,
Is Tynemouth's haughty prioress,
And she with awe looks pale:
And he, that ancient man, whose sight
Has long been quench'd by age's night,
Upon whose wrinkled brow alone,
Nor ruth, nor mercy's trace is shown,
Whose look is hard and stern,-
Saint Cuthbert's abbot is his style:
For sanctity call'd through the isle,
The Saint of Lindisfarn.
Before them stood a guilty pair;
But, though an equal fate they share,
Yet one alone deserves our care.
Her sex a page's dress belied ;
The cloke and doublet, loosely tied,
Obscured her charms, but could not hide.
Her cap down o'er her face she drew;
And, on her doublet-breast,
She tried to hide the badge of blue,
Lord Marmion's falcon crest.
But, at the prioress' command,
A monk undid the silken band,
That tied her tresses fair,
And raised the bonnet from her head,
And down her slender form they spread,
In ringlets rich and rare.
Constance de Beverly they know,
Sister professid of Fontevraud,
Whom the church number'd with the dead,
For broken vows, and convent fled.
When thus her face was given to view,
(Although so pallid was her hue,
It did a ghastly contrast bear,
To those bright ringlets, glistening fair,)
Her look composed, and steady eye,
Bespoke a matchless constancy.
And there she stood so calm, and pale,
That, but her breathing did not fail,
A motion slight of eye and head,
And of her bosom, warranted,
That neither sense nor pulse she lacks,
You might have thought a form of wax,
Wrought to the very life, was there :
So still she was, so pale, so fair.
Her comrade was a sordid soul,
Such as does murder for a meed;
Who, but of fear, knows no control,
Because his conscience, seard and foul,
Feels not the import of his deed;
One, whose brute-feeling ne'er aspires
Beyond his own more brute desires.
Such tools the tempter ever needs,
To do the savagest of deeds;
For them, no vision'd terrors daunt,
Their nights no fancied spectres haunt;
One fear with them, of all most base,
The fear of death,-alone finds place.
This wretch was clad in frock and cowl,
And shamed not loud to moan and howl,
His body on the floor to dash,
And crouch, like bound beneath the lash;
While his mute partner, standing near,
Waited her doom without a tear.
XXIII. Yet well the luckless wretch might shriek, Well might her paleness terrors speak, For there were seen, in that dark wall, Two niches, narrow, deep, and tall ;Who enters at each griesly door, Shall ne'er, I ween, find exit more.