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A POETICAL TALE.
on Bertram's brow ?
Why seems he muttering still
some secret vow;
Revenge upon his lips, and swelling pride
That insults would in mockful scorn deride ?
Is yonder massive castle turret-crown'd ;
Are yonder forests, by his Sires renown'd,
Unequal to the pomp his lofty mind
Claims in the eye of light and base mankind ?
Driven by his frowns, or envious of his powers,
See how the vulgar herd around him lours !
Alone in multitudes, no friendly ear
His converse seeks, or grave or gay, to hear :
While pleas'd and pleasing, finds each babler round
His frothy nonsense with attention crown'd.
If some insearchable disease by stealth,
Or seated in the body or the soul,
Of bliss all outward seemings can controul?
Shap'd in a mould of noblest symmetry,
Where grace with vigorous strength appears to vie,
His melancholy visage, pale with thought,
Is with the flame of soaring genius fraught !
With gifts like these, how curst, above the state,
Of common men, appears Sir Bertram's fate !"
When years long past we met in Redbourne's hall !
And where has Bertram since been known? And how
Have pass'd his days? contented, or in woe?
The tale is sad ! Shall then the tale be told?
And will ye listen, if I should unfold
Mysteries, will make, perchance, the blood run cold?
Had seen in Britain's isle its final day,
Those self-same towers to Bertram's grandsires came,
That Time had ne'er dissever'd from the name;
And round, of lordships, forests, wastes, a store,
That 't would be tedious, did I count them o'er.
But Bertram came into the world too late
To be the chief of such a wide estate :
Shorn of its beams, it yet was spread around,
With many a proud and noble feature crown'd.
Cover'd with honours, in a glorious strife.
Then from his infant smiles a vain relief
His mother sought, and clos'd in death her grief.
Too young to know the loss his fate had given,
Not yet his heart with lonely pangs was riven !
But Morning rose upon his boyish sports,
And still the live-long day the light he courts:
Rays of the sun, or shadows of the cloud,
Alike to him with pleasures are endow'd ;
v.52–v.70He basks in sunshine on the flowery grass;
Within the hall, with armour loaded, pass
Those hours the frowning elements employ
In schemes less full of zephyr-breathing joy.
To live, to breathe, to feel the genial glow
Of health through every vein in currents flow,
Oft was calm bliss ; and oft was ecstacy ;
And oft would rapture kindle in the eye ;
And often on the lips in half-form'd accents die !
A thousand airy castles he would build,
With day-dreams half his childish hours were fill'd ;
Ill humours, if they cross'd, with visions bright were still'd.
Amid companions he was silent, rude,
Or o'er some angry whim, or fancied wrong would brood.
The stander-by in his profound conceit
With pitying shrugs the simple boy would greet :
"Alas ! his sluggish faculties ! how slow
In him begin the mental powers to grow !
v.71–v.90How cold his little heart ! O mark the cry
His comrades use of sprightlier energy !
Him seem more hapless Destinies to rule,
Mute like an ideot, awkward like a fool !"
Of human character can truths dispense ?
E'en now the Boy the tortuous thought pervades,
And thus within himself the wrong upbraids:
" The day shall come, Insulter, when the fire
Of this o'erlabouring bosom shall aspire
In flames thy slender intellect to fright,
And scorch thy dull wit with unhooded light !
And under foot these comrades vile I'll tread,
Whom thus in scorn thou placest o'er my head !
It is not poverty of thought, that seals
My lips in silence, or my bosom steels :
Swell my wild fancies for my lips too full ;
And pride and scorn my utterance backward pull !"
Of mental powers, as years roll'd on their course;
v.91–v.110Amid the struggles of a crowded school,
His faculties began to take the rule ;
Though shy, and inexpert at common games,
'Twas early known that he had higher claims :
Rapid to learn, and deep to comprehend,
Down to the source his searching powers would tend ;
Tho' sometimes his capricious mind would seize
Strange obstacles, where others trod with ease !
Associates, helpmates, intimates but few ;
Reserv'd, unus'd to jest, unfit to bend,
He knew not to relax but with a friend.
He lov'd distinction; it was in his breast
The hell that ne'er allow'd a moment's rest.
When with the crowd of manlier years array'd,
He sigh'd that Time no speedier progress made.
He long'd to lead the senate or the field ;
The sword of war or of the tongue to wield :
But most within Imagination's reign
He long'd to fix an undenied domain.
A youth of still maturer form to speak ;
And his brow darken'd, and his mellow voice
Seem'd as in pride of manhood to rejoice.
" A world to conquer !" See, how gay it lies,
Glittering with spoils before his eager eyes!
Fair damsels dancing light on every green,
In graceful shapes first deck th' enchanting scene;
Still as they glance their many-twinkling feet,
Still as their locks their swelling bosoms greet,
He looks with rapture, and he sighs with fire,
With mutual love those bosoms to inspire.
Goes, in the armour of adventure clad :
But, ah ! if Hope luxuriant blossoms cast,
Most fatal comes the chilling, blighting blast.
The withering glance of Scorn, the freezing look
Of sad Neglect, his sanguine fancy shook.
Careless of money, he drew round about
His house, large trains that form'd a motley rout;
v.131–v.150Now fast flew rents, for mighty as they seem'd,
They far below the costs they crav'd were deem'd.
A thousand harpies prey'd upon his wealth ;
A thousand leeches drew his blood by stealth.
Her vulture talons on his trembling heart.
Already did he see the feudal sway,
Endear'd by Time, about to waste away :
Not wasted on himself his wealth had gone ;
On wings of other joys than his 't was flown.
But what avail'd it now ! Regret was vain !
To him it never could return again !
Ah ! is it bootless backward eyes to cast ?
Is there no sorrow then for what is past ?
In Bertram's anxious bosom Calm was o'er ;
And Joy was vanish'd to return no more !
To watch the gathering tempests round him brood;
And struggled with the storm, and to the wind
The shrill shriek of his wildering sorrows join'd.
v.151–v.168Then through the castle's courts, and hall, and towers
He rambled, muttering sad, at midnight hours !
To each grim visage that the pictur'd walls
Shew of his numerous Sires, by fits he calls ;
And talks strange things, and listens in return
To truths long buried in the funeral urn.
Her cloven foot upon the threshold set :
Yet have not come those hell-hounds of the Law,
With fang of torture, and blood-dropping jaw !
Those fiends ineffable, who at the sight
Of human sorrow grin with mad delight !
Adventure, cross his troubled brain are roll'd ;
Spoils in the wars, or prizes in the games
Of chance, he deems were worthy of his aims.
His fickle fancy dwells awhile on these,
And many a golden vision wakes to please.
v.169–v.186Dear forests, where the breath of life he drew,
When Nature open'd on his raptur'd view ;
Turrets, through which the breeze's murmuring tone
First taught his boyhood Melancholy's moan,
For foreign climes your long-lov'd haunts he flies,
And seeks in change to soothe his miseries.
By fits forgetful of the pangs of home :
The din of war ; the array of tented fields
To his worn breast a transient impulse yields :
He mounts the war-horse ; and the troops he heads ;
And havoc 'mid opposing squadrons spreads !
Then glory follows his heroic deeds ;
Nor vainly Bertram's youthful body bleeds.
Was register'd upon the rolls of Fame.
Too haughty he beneath the first to shine,
The name which birth had given would yet decline;
v.187–v.206By some fictitious designation known,
He like an unexpected meteor shone ;
But in the conflict of companions wild,
Who no strong passion of the soul beguil'd,
He led a life that had no sense of time,
A life of mingled honour and of crime.
And burst of merriment rose o'er the bowl ;
And oft between, the damsel's beauteous form
The story of their converse gay would warm ;
And Bertram too would in voluptuous joy
His hours of leisure unrestrain'd employ.
By holier vows and firmer friendship bound :
His name was Norville: less perchance of fire
Than suited Bertram did his breast inspire :
For he was of a calmer, softer kind,
Slow in his mien, and patient in his mind;
Fix'd to his word, and faithful to his trust,
Clear in his thoughts, and in his actions just.
Yield to the force of Norville's mild controul ;
And oft amid the carnage of the day,
He 'scap'd rash death by his persuasive sway.
Some ruling subject, which he strove to hide :
Some fond and pensive thoughts he fed apart
Within the inmost foldings of his heart.
If Love it was, that o'er that gentle breast
Had such an undivided reign possest,
If in the temple of that tender mind
Some fair maid's form for worship was enshrin'd,
Not e'en to Bertram was the secret sigh'd ;
He only guess'd that Norville deified
Some abstract form of female loveliness ;
And in his own creation plac'd his bliss.
His feelings and his soul were all of flame ;
v.225–v.245He lov'd to paint in every vivid hue,
The lovely maiden that his fancy drew ;
And boast, like Cowley, of the numerous charms,
That fill'd his breast alternate with alarms.
In him the soften'd voice, the piercing eye,
The form of graceful strength, the casual sigh,
The tender fair-one could in vain defy.
How wide and flattering was the grateful reign
That Nature's gifts, and mental eloquence,
Gave to his wishes o'er the female sense.
Suspicious of repulse, a timid glance
Too often chill'd his half-recoil'd advance ;
And back within himself in sullen ire,
As one forlorn and scorn'd he would retire ;
Then when resentment flush'd the fair one's face,
And moody anger gave a doubtful grace,
Half in defiance, half in love return'd,
His bosom with the scheme of conquest burn'd;
And in despair and mingled passion bold,
Forth from his tongue the mental treasures roll'd.
v.246–v.264Then by the lightning from his eye that beam'd,
The glowing language from his lips that stream'd,
Too oft a dangerous arrow in the breast
Canker'd in silence e'en when not confest,
And prey'd in secret on the fair one's rest !
Had power like thee to draw the maiden's sigh ;
But calm and dull, to me is not reveal'd
The swelling bosom, that to thee would yield."
" O Norville ! dost thou laugh me thus to scorn ?
No female gifts my vacant arm adorn !
O Norville ! rather bid this heart be still ;
Thou know'st with what delightful joy they fill,
Those syren charmers, fill this breast of fire,
Then treat with scorn the love that they inspire!"
The bray of trumpets, and the cannon's roar,
And toils exhausting, and that grisly Power,
Grim Death, who talk'd with all at every hour,
v.269[lit.]–v.286From Bertram's and from Norville's bosoms drove
Far off the softening thoughts of wanton love.
Three days and nights did now the battle rave,
And thousands fell, but found no covering grave:
When Bertram drop'd with many a ghastly wound,
And senseless lay upon the blood-stain'd ground !
Now with vain care his long-lov'd comrade sought:
Too sure his friend had fallen among the slain,
And in some undistinguish'd heap was lain,
He mourn'd for one, whose likeness never more
The world's wide circle would to him restore ;
In action daring, bolder still in thought,
With each mix'd charm of mind and body fraught;
Diffident still, as if he never knew
The various gifts that lavish Nature threw
Upon his form, mind, heart, he rather sigh'd
In fear of sad defects, than out of pride.
An energetic interest on woe ?
O where the fancy, that its varying hues
Could e'en o'er scenes of vacancy diffuse ;
And people deserts ; and the darkest night
Fill with the gleams of rainbow-tinctur'd light ?
Where is the trembling bosom, which could flow
With sympathy for every human woe ?
That intellect, which threw the beam of day
In broadest splendour where it fix'd its ray ?
Lock'd in the arms of death that vigorous form ;
(No pulse that once-o'er flowing breast to warm,)
Unconscious lies amid the vulgar crew,
With not a tear that pallid cheek to dew ;
And not a hand to throw a mantle round,
And not a flower to consecrate the ground.
It is not in the horror of the fight,
Or when the dart of Death's about to light
Upon the shrinking form, the sorrow lies ;
It is that after-scene, which still defies
The fortitude of noblest hearts ; nor spares,
In midst of conquest e'en the hero's tears.
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A POETICAL TALE.
And many a month had linger'd on
its way ;
Yet of his parted friend no tidings came ;
As if at once had sunk his life and name !
In pensive solitude he sooth'd his grief,
And only in that image sought relief,
Which long within his bosom's inmost fold
An idol's sacred place was wont to hold.
To her he wrote again ; to her he sigh'd,
A heart no female could with her divide :
For she was lovely as the blush of Morn,
And grace did all her shape, and looks adorn ;
And tenderness was in her languid eye,
And in her bosom sensibility.
But faint, as if she only could approve !
For she, whom every intellectual ray
Lighted to hopes of fairer, loftier day,
Had wish'd a lover, whom each shadowy form
Of Fancy's wand to energy could warm.
Norville releas'd, once more recross'd the main,
And sought with beating heart his home again.
Then at the feet of her who long had sway'd
His bosom, his eternal vows he laid :
Soon at the altar he those pledges swore,
And in his arms the trembling virgin bore.
The days each other rapidly to chase,
When once more summon'd to the rage of arms,
He paus'd at parting from the fair one's charms;
And she, at toils and perils unappall'd,
Shrunk not from duty when her husband call'd.
v.34–v.51Faithful she follow'd o'er the foaming main,
And smooth'd his pillow on the tented plain.
And o'er his memory ceaseless vigils kept ;
Lucasta too, (for such the sacred name
That, known of yore, now honour'd Norville's dame ;)
Had heard of Bertram, till, within the shrine
Her fancy built, she deem'd him half divine.
And round it many a belted soldier met ;
And every one, of much that he had heard,
And much that he had seen, the tale preferr'd ;
Fitz-John, for by that name the warlike crew,
By his own choice, the daring Bertram knew,
Fitz-John, the hero of a tale became.
“ Fitz-John! ” half breathless, Norville 'gan exclaim ;
But listen'd on, and tried his breath to hold,
Till more of that heart-shaking tale was told.
Had pass'd long months in deep captivity ;
For some rash deed, some bold attempt to break
His chains, the Foe full vengeance will'd to take.
In dark dank massive dungeon deep immur'd,
Cold, hunger, solitude he long endur'd :
But as he lay, at length a pitying eye
Was cast upon the captive's misery :
A female eye! the Goaler's daughter saw
The wretched victim stretch'd upon the straw,
And quick resolv'd to soothe those cruel pains,
And loose or lighten those inhuman chains.
Now roam'd at large, and saw the Morning dawn,
And saw Eve's mantle gather round the Heaven,
And blest the Maid, by whom those boons were given.
Ah! Maid, soft-bosom'd ! Thou didst vainly throw
That melting eye on him thou sav'dst from woe !
Though deeply he thy kindness felt ; yet he,
His fancy fed with fairer dames than thee !
v.72–v.89But still he press'd thy tender hand, and tried
By gentle tones to soothe thine injur'd pride.
But thou wouldst lean upon his arm in vain,
And plead with melting eye and sorrowing strain;
To thee in pride of hopes, and height of youth,
He could not pledge, poor Maid, eternal truth !
A watchful look they o'er their captive keep :
Converse with friends the maiden's eye, which Love
Had render'd sharp and jealous, could remove.
Till he could gain his long-lost friend's release :
Letters and messengers were sent in vain ;
No distant tidings brought they back again.
Then fair Lucasta, whose heroic mind
For every noble effort was design'd,
Heedless of toils that meaner spirits shake,
Devoted, sought the task to undertake.
v.90–v.108Norville, though deeply pang'd with her to part,
Whom every day made dearer to his heart,
Resolv'd at Friendship's call no selfish care,
Those efforts that his duty urg'd, should spare ;
And e'en though all his earthly bliss he lent,
Lucasta on the dangerous errand sent.
Th' ill-omen'd prison of Fitz-John she sought.
To distant parts by vague enquiry bound,
At length a spot retir'd and hid she found,
Where a dark fortress o'er a village frown'd.
And there, 'twas said, some captives of the state,
Closely immur'd, dragg'd on their hapless fate.
“ Here, here,” she cried, “ I'll fix my short abode ;
And thus, methinks, Hope whispers in my ear,
Some tidings of the youth I seek, shall hear.”
Weary she waited many a lingering day,
And still from Hope beam'd forth no second ray.
v.109–v.127But sometimes rumour whisper'd that a maid
Walk'd with her lover veil'd by Evening's shade :
And from that fortress it was said they came ;
But shunn'd th' enquirer's eye as if for shame.
As ghosts that glided o'er the village green.
Of moody feats they told strange, shuddering tales,
Of hollow sighs and shrieks that fill'd the gales:
But others held, that moping Madness there
Was plac'd beneath some tender maiden's care,
Whose task it was to soften his despair.
And when she sooth'd his burning cheek, and prest
Her gentle hand upon his burning breast,
Upon his fever'd heart it pour'd a balm,
And o'er his raving frame ensued a calm ;
While Night's cool breeze was call'd through every vein
His blood's o'er-swelling currents to restrain.
" It is a tale," she cried, "I must unfold.
v.128–v.147Wild o'er his woes beneath that mantle broods
Perchance the captive, who my search eludes.
But careful must I watch, and many a wile
Employ to meet that female keeper's guile."
The mystic pair their various paths to pace :
Oft as she wont by nearer steps pursue,
Like ghosts they vanish'd, and escap'd her view :
Oft as she listen'd while the silent air
Their whisper'd converse could distinctly bear,
The words all from the Maiden seem'd to come,
While He mov'd onward in unbroken gloom.
And entrance in that Fort by day to win ;
A female stranger no suspicion rais'd ;
She saw each court, and still around she gaz'd ;
No captive met her search ; no hero, veil'd,
Her prying glances e'en in fancy hail'd.
But soon light tripping by her side was seen
A nymph of youthful air and sprightly mien ;
v.148–v.166A little sharp brunette of sloe-black eyes,
Who deem'd unask'd each female ear her prize.
And of her beauty's triumphs many a lie :
Lucasta listen'd ; 't was the game she sought ;
And as the girl her stores of conquest brought
Before her ear, sigh'd many an anxious thought.
But still no tidings ; yet within the smile
That roguish eye shot forth, she deem'd some wile
Lurk'd undivulg'd : but, if the prattling fool
Pleas'd not, she hop'd some happier hour to rule.
And Juliet still her new companion chose ;
And told her of an hundred loves ; then smil'd ;
And said a soldier had her heart beguil'd :
He was so brave a youth ; and in his face
There shone such mingled dignity and grace,
And in his vigorous form, which birth refin'd,
The warrior and the lover so combin'd,
v.167–v.186That she had pledg'd to him eternal vows,
And earthly barriers should not interpose;
But he was moody, and such pride would fly
In threatening glances from his fiery eye,
And sometimes such a deep and silent grief,
That seem'd beyond the reach of her relief,
Sat on his lips, and folded up his arms,
And steel'd his bosom to all human charms,
That she was often fearful, that by fits
Some unknown evil had derang'd his wits.
" At such a captive feel a generous pride.
To rule o'er heroes is to rule the world,
While Conquest's banners at your feet are hurl'd."
The spell was strong ; the' intoxicating draught
Of flattering praise with eager lips she quaff'd :
Then beat her heart those triumphs to display,
And shew the youth who yielded to her sway.
" Meet me," she said, "when Evening's mantle grey
Begins with grateful shades to veil our way ;
v.187–v.207Meet me beneath that row of sombre limes,
When from yon holy tower the curfew chimes ;
Then leaning on my arm the noble youth
Will sigh in whispers soft his wonted truth.
Mark his tall form, and mark his graceful air,
And mark the ringlets of his raven hair,
That curl upon his speaking brow ; but spare
To try that voice, which oft in silence sleeps !
For Juliet only he that treasure keeps !"
She conjur'd, work beyond her hopes so well ;
But hid her gladness ; and with doubtful tone,
" Ah, Juliet !" said she, "shall I roam alone
In darksome paths by twilight hours to view
Those triumphs, which I cannot doubt for you ?
It boots not me this warrior to behold !
It boots not me his virtues to unfold !
In climes remote my fond affection lies,
Deep fix'd on one, whose faith all change defies !"
Of Juliet's bosom to display her fame :
v.208–v.226Again she urg'd her ; and Lucasta, prest
Beyond denial, granted the request.
All Nature hushing to a calm repose ;
The moon, half-crescented, began to gleam
Along the twilight with a silver beam,
And throw a pale ray cross the rippling stream,
When as Lucasta, trembling, watch'd the stroke,
The curfew the appointed summons spoke.
Slow to the spot her doubtful feet she bent,
With hopes and fears conflicting as she went.
She deem'd she heard a voice in every wind ;
And her own breath like footsteps seem'd behind.
At length she thought, those distant limes among,
Two silent figures seem'd to glide along.
Her heart beat high in fearful tumult tost ;
Trembled her feet ; her breath was almost lost !
But not a murmur did the youth reply :
v.227–v.246Sullen he seem'd, with mantle cross him flung ;
And o'er his face his deep-flapp'd beaver hung.
" Well-omen'd thus, sweet Confidante, we meet !
Her dearest friend let Juliet's soldier greet !"
Forth Juliet stretch'd her hand ; and forward, too,
Her sullen soldier's from her grasp she drew.
" Here, Lady, take this hand ! it is the hand
Of one, who shone in many a brave command ;
Till chance of war withheld the sheltering shield,
And scarce with life he 'scap'd th' ensanguin'd field !
To me he owes ------" --- " Enough, my Juliet !" cried
A still faint voice, that half in murmurs died !
But as he spake, convulsions seem'd to tear
His heart with such a pang of deep despair,
That vainly seeking from his lips relief,
He struggled with unutterable grief !
But deem'd it could be only him she sought.
Yet wherefore silent ? Why this troubled brow ;
And all these starts of wild mysterious woe ?
v.247–v.266Why hid that face with so much care ; and why
That mantle thrown to thwart the searching eye ?
Did Juliet's selfish wishes so ordain ;
Did Juliet with such power despotic reign ?
Yet rather seem'd, as wounds and sorrows, join'd,
Had touch'd with madness that illumin'd mind !
Ere more she ventur'd, it was wise to pause.
" Juliet, adieu," she said, "another night
Again I meet thee. Now the Moon her light
Seems muffling up in clouds ; and I my way
Shall scarcely trace by her diminish'd ray."
Some half-form'd utterance then she thought she heard,
Some murmur in her native tongue preferr'd :
" Ah ! come, Enchanter !" --- " Yet 't was Fancy fram'd
Sounds on my ear :" she to herself exclaim'd.
Then down she rush'd along the limes, and trod
With trembling steps to her retir'd abode.
There Sleep refus'd her anxious eyes to close ;
And deep she ponder'd on the captive's woes.
Till wak'd again the curfew's grateful chime.
Juliet in vanity undamp'd, meanwhile,
Her soldier sooth'd with many a wanton smile :
More subtle he, by softness intermix'd
With moody humours, her affection fix'd.
All round had shone the harvest's golden store ;
And e'en Lucasta had begun to feel
Nature's sweet calmness through her bosom steal;
When through the still air came with hollow sound
The chime that summon'd to th' appointed ground.
Now through the silver light the pair were seen :
Juliet approach'd her friend : with cautious air
The Youth bow'd coldly to the trembling Fair.
v.283–v.302" Dear Soldier !" Juliet said, "if in the pain
Of adverse fate, my care has not been vain,
Thus shrink not from my friend : nor spare to tell,
If in thy sorrows I have serv'd thee well !"
" Juliet !" he cried, "to thee my life I owe,
And thou hast sooth'd me in severest woe !"
He sigh'd ; and tears his utterance seem'd to choke,
And from his lips strange words imperfect broke.
Lucasta caught them : not to her unknown,
They breath'd a signal she would wish to own.
Caught the Youth's features by the pallid light.
Dark was his brow ; and in his darker eye
Seem'd Sorrow with indignant Pride to vie.
" That burning hand," Lucasta softly cried,
" Bespeaks within thy veins the fever's tide :
Will night-dews harmless round those temples play,
If on thy frame the fever's tumults prey ?"
" Lady," he said, " ' tis Juliet's hand that guides
My footsteps, wheresoe'er her will decides !
v.303–v.322Relying on her care, and tir'd of life,
While through my veins the fever holds its strife,
It boots not me, whate'er befalls this frame,
That sickness tortures, and that wrongs inflame !"
" O, do not talk in such a mournful tone !
Has not thy Juliet soften'd every moan ?
Hung o'er thy writhing form, and gently spread
The tender pillow 'neath thy beating head ?
Say rather thou wilt live for her, and own
By dear returns the kindness she has shewn !"
Ran till her shrieks his flying footsteps stay'd.
Then Juliet, falling wildly at his feet,
Clung round his knees his pardon to intreat ;
And sweet Lucasta on his shoulder hung,
While tenderest pity issued from her tongue.
" Be calm :" she cried with melting voice, "Be calm :"
And pour'd into his breast an heavenly balm.
His soft associates seem'd his grief to charm.
v.323–v.328" Thus," Juliet whisper'd, "sometimes when the ray
Of yon Moon touches, will his senses stray !"
He caught the words, yet, seeming not to hear,
Drop'd on Lucasta's hand a burning tear.
Then bade they to the dame a kind farewell ;
And wild she hurried to her lonely cell.
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A POETICAL TALE.
shades of night
Lucasta and Fitz-John press on
Still fearful of pursuit, the quick retreat
Many a long league they urge with weary feet ;
When care, and fear, and toil, at length o'ercame
The softer spirits of th' heroic Dame.
Now prey'd the horror, on her trembling heart,
Of vengeance, Juliet's thwarted love would dart !
Too faint to go ; too terrified to stay,
Too weak to part from him who prop'd her way,
She press'd him still with generous care to fly,
And leave to gracious Heaven her destiny.
" Of angel beauty, dwells angelic truth.
v.15–v.32Is there a wretch, that wears the human form,
Whom goodness such as thine would fail to warm ?
And canst thou think that I, of all mankind,
So dastardly in spirit, and in mind,
Should fly---in danger's hour should fly, from thee;
And when that danger was incurr'd for me ?
A thousand deaths, or torments be decreed,
Rather than blast my name with such a deed !"
For as the tears would on her bosom pour,
With trembling awe those torrents Bertram drank,
Then lost in wildness on that bosom sank.
Uprose in anger, and reproach, the Dame,
And Hell's new lightning shot along his frame.
And offer a repentant wretch's vow,
If at thine altar in unholy thought
I come with other worship than I ought,
v.33–v.52Then let this dastard and ungenerous breast
Be with the villain's hated brand opprest !
Let every generous impulse of the soul
Backward to dank and poison'd vapours roll !
The vigorous arm, that struck the manly foe,
None but a shrivell'd, palsied, current know !
And him, whom once some fame, if faint, adorn'd,
Be for a coward hiss'd, a driveller scorn'd !"
Pardon's sweet smile, tender yet chaste, appears.
With eyes of pure devotion he beholds
The heavenly form that such an heart enfolds ;
And vows with holy love, and saint-like flame,
To guide, protect, adore the virtuous Dame !
Tremendous clouds came gathering o'er the hill,
Where up the steep their solitary way
Strove from pursuit the fugitives to stray.
Descends the bursting torrent on their heads ;
In vain Fitz-John his covering mantle spreads ;
v.53–v.71Drench'd with the rain, and shivering with the cold,
Onward they cease their toilsome course to hold ;
And 'neath an oak, whose branches wide are cast,
Wait till the pelting of the storm is past.
Her head against the rude embossed trunk
Lucasta leaning, into slumber sunk :
A restless, feverish slumber ! Oft she sigh'd,
And oft some half-form'd shrieks of horror tried,
While watch'd th' affrighted hero by her side !
Which absence tortur'd, did he while away ?
" Lucasta, once the soother of my toils,
Care, Dangers seem'd to fly before thy smiles !
Soft was thy voice ; and issuing from thy tongue
Attention on thy gentle wisdom hung :
Then eloquence beam'd from that lustrous eye,
And genius, grac'd by beauty, wak'd to ecstacy !
The weary hours, by thee ungilded, slow,
Through day, through night, in anxious fancies go !
v.72–v.91Imagination paints thy tender form,
By night o'ertaken, struggling with the storm ;
Or in the hands of rude barbarian foes,
Sunk helpless in unutterable woes !
Then stung with anger, shrieking with despair,
' 'Twas I that urg'd the rash attempt to dare ! '
' 'Twas I that urg'd,' my lips imperfect cry,
' The task, heroic duty bade thee try ! '
Friendship ! ah, name, less holy far than Love,
Why to this treacherous madness didst thou move ?
Generous Fitz-John, thou ne'er at Friendship's shrine
Hadst ask'd the sacrifice of bliss like mine !
Lonely at eve I mourn, and wake at dawn,
The soother of my griefs and perils gone :
Gone to seek thee, Fitz-John ; while, as she calls,
Perchance thou groan'st within unhearing walls !
And calm the pangs that in my bosom burn ;
Let me again that voice melodious hear,
And view again that form with rapture's tear !
v.92–v.108For thee I pant, no image but of thee
My sighing soul admits its guest to be ;
But deep the gloom, that 'gins my mind assail,
Lest in those arduous toils thy strength should fail,
Or arts of hell should o'er thy charms prevail."
A thousand wild conflicting passions roll :
War's animating clang, toil, danger, fame,
No thought from one dear image can reclaim.
Care pales his cheek ; and oft in moody fits
Black Melancholy on his bosom sits ;
Prompting Despair to some heart-withering blow,
Or Jealousy to deeds of darkest woe !
Why breaks not through this gloom a transient ray ?
Has Death arrested thee ? Has Mischief's aim
Touch'd with unhallow'd hand that lovely frame?
v.109–v.128Has broken Faith that once angelic breast
With aught impure in act or thought possest ?
O then, in truth, in woman's form would shine
False charms alone, that veil Destruction's mine!"
Her torturing poison through thy generous heart!
Beneath the unpierc'd shelter of the oak,
Which still the raging of the tempest broke,
Lucasta, 'mid the elemental roar,
Fitz-John's protecting arm unconscious bore.
Strikes on his heart the trampling sound of steeds;
His quivering bosom with new terror bleeds :
But sweet Lucasta hears not ; murmuring low,
She utters in her dreams the sighs of woe.
They past : the rude pursuers past along ;
Nor heard her sighs the whistling winds among.
The twinkling stars bestow a doubtful light :
The Dame awaken'd from her broken dreams,
For flight renew'd her strength and courage deems:
v.129–v.147Flooded with showers, the miry pathway pain'd
Their weary feet; and slow their steps they gain'd.
Lucasta faint, and victim to her toil,
Exhausted spirits could no more beguile :
Heavier her arm Fitz-John, and heavier found ;
Then sunk she senseless on the chilly ground.
All rose his breast with various pangs to tear ;
Then bearing to a bank the dying Fair,
His cloak he spread beneath her lifeless form,
And 'gan her palsied hands in his to warm ;
And chafe her temples ; and the living spring
To her parch'd lips with pious care to bring.
Once more the vapours gather'd round the hill :
Fitz-John was hopeless ; when he thought a gleam,
As if from some lone cot, appear'd to stream :
He watch'd ; again it gleam'd, and then was lost ;
And thus in fear and joy alternate tost,
v.148–v.169Afraid to leave his charge, his weary eye
Look'd till his wandering senses star'd on vacancy!
Once more it gleam'd; and with a ray more bright,
He rose and ran to bless that hallow'd light !
The hind was there ; and welcome entrance gave;
Then quick he ran his dying charge to save :
Within his trembling arms the Dame he bore ;
And softly laid her on the rustic's floor.
Now strove the host with kindly care to raise
His hearth's pale embers to a chearful blaze :
Lucasta's cheek again was seen to glow ;
And the warm current through her veins to flow.
" Where am I now ? Is Norville by my side ?
Ah, Norville ! what long days of care have past,
Since thy protecting smiles were o'er me cast !
Alas ! it is not Norville ! Noble youth
I know thee now! And thine's the smile of Truth!
And thine the arm that Innocence defends,
And Virtue homeward to her temple sends !
Conscious for thee what dangers I have known,
Thou wilt not leave me here to die alone !
v.170–v.188Again I feel my fainting spirits fly ;
And shadowy vapours cross my swimming eye :
O tell, if now I close these lips in death,
I bless'd my Norville with my parting breath !"
And she sunk once more lifeless in his arms :
" O Heaven ! if ever thou didst hear the prayer
Of virtuous suffering, this dear angel spare !
Faithful to Duty's and to Friendship's call,
Let her not in the noble struggle fall !
If ever Virtue in the human breast
Its loveliest, chastest, purest fire possest,
Lucasta's bosom was the shrine it chose ;
Its heavenliest fervor in Lucasta rose !"
As life's last pang seem'd on her lips to move.
Ye, who have watch'd the dying form you love,
Can only know with what resistless power,
Fitz-John's fond heart Grief's cruel talons tore !
v.189–v.208Stretch'd on the peasant's bed Lucasta lay,
While her sad comrade pray'd for dawning day,
Till morn's first beams, that through the straw-roof'd shed
Shot genial light, reclaim'd her from the dead.
Day follow'd day, and slow the lovely Dame
Felt strength reviving in her feeble frame :
Till forth re-issuing from that kind abode,
Once more they dar'd the perils of the road.
Still weak and trembling on her comrade hung.
Soft was their converse ; tender was the strain,
That strove of childish days to paint the train ;
" Lucasta, genial was the breeze that blew,
And touch'd that infant cheek with heavenly hue ;
And blest the sun, that saw that infant form
With soul of bright etherial instinct warm !
Fair is the face of Nature in each scene,
When Spring first clothes it with her vivid green:
And fair is Nature, when with broader blaze
Refulgent Summer her full charms arrays ;
v.209–v.228Fair too, when Autumn's shadowy radiance gleams ;
Sublime when Winter feeds the roaring streams:
But Nature in the range of all, that sight,
Or ear, or heart, or fancy can delight,
Will never wake with rapture so divine,
As strikes each sense from such a form as thine !
Ah form, though fair, in outward gifts the least !
Fairest in soul, that beams within that breast !
With Virtue's awe I at thine altar bend ;
Nor in Devotion's flame forget my friend !"
" Nor at these humble feet thine incense spread!
For me ! by sickness worn ; from feeble heart
Unfit to struggle through the virtuous part
That Friendship urg'd, and Duty vainly tried,
How sinks within herself Lucasta's pride !
My faultering step supported by thine arm,
Thou canst not mean this bosom to alarm !
Fitz-John, in Danger's or in Sorrow's hour,
Too generous, would not wanton with his power!
v.229–v.249Through days of toil, and nights of anxious care,
Through scenes of suffering, women ill can bear,
I sought to free thee from the captive's chain !
O pay me not with insult and disdain !
For surely just disdain would be my lot,
If Norville's injur'd honour were forgot !
And is not Flattery's breath to her, whose vow
No other guest must in her bosom know
But Norville's fond affection, treason foul,
Would stain for ever thy aspiring soul ?
Thou know'st that Virtue only can refine
The form with Beauty's genuine charms to shine."
" And Virtue," interpos'd in fervid tone
The admiring youth, " 'tis Virtue's fire alone,
That speaks, with such enchanting softness, strains,
Which lift Lucasta to the' angelic trains."
Or shame unquenchable my breast will fill !"
Fierce through the skies an arrowy dart of light
Shew'd each surrounding object to the sight,
Then left them veil'd again in blacker night !
v.250–v.259Loud over them the thunder broke ; and rain
Burst in full torrents o'er their heads again :
Lucasta shriek'd ! then on her comrade hung,
And dragg'd in mute despair her trembling limbs along.
That Vice and Virtue to their trials bind !
Vice lolls at ease ; in Pleasure's lap she lies ;
Nor cares molest, nor sudden ills surprise ;
While still with griefs and dangers compass'd round,
Struggling with adverse fate is Virtue found !
[ p.55 ]
[ p.57 ]
A POETICAL TALE.
Which Fancy draws, when glow-
ing genius warms !
Where art thou, my Lucasta ?" Norville cried ;
Then from his bursting bosom deep he sigh'd :
His gathering grief each moment moodier grew;
And his eye wander'd, and his senses flew.
He rush'd to find the mistress he had lost.
Escap'd his comrades, wildering Woe urg'd on
His feverish steps from night-fall to the dawn :
Muttering his woes, his hopeless lot he pin'd ;
And held strange converse with the passing wind.
Then, when the genial breath of Morning blew
Upon his shivering limbs, his length he threw
On a soft bank, where thorns umbrageous grew ;
v.16–v.35And worn with toil, and sick with sorrow, clos'd
His eyes, and in sad starting slumbers dos'd.
And fill'd him with unutterable woes.
Before her stood a youth with wanton eye ;
While her bare bosom seem'd to heave a sigh.
That chaste and soften'd look, that wont to beam
As from the soul with an angelic gleam,
Chang'd to a Syren's dangerous glance, betray'd
The melting languor of a love-sick maid.
Stung with mad jealousy, from sleep he broke,
And call'd Revenge to deal his direst stroke.
Onward with staggering steps his course he tried;
Fury by fits his haggard eye-balls roll'd ;
Then rays of love the vengeful fit controul'd.
" Lucasta !" he would cry in soften'd tone:
Then wept again that lovely name to own.
" Lucasta ! that base dream some Demon, bent
On hell-born mischief, to my slumbers sent !
v.36–v.56Ne'er could Lucasta to a Syren turn :
With fire unhallow'd ne'er Lucasta burn !
Dear injur'd idol, come ! Again I bow ;
And at thy feet renew my warmest vow !
But, ah !" and darted then a maddening look ;
And his whole frame with maddening tremor shook :
" If ought unholy ever touch'd that breast
With the least tinge of Vice's cursed pest ;
If ever but for me that bosom heav'd,
Or e'er a crossing thought of wrong receiv'd ;
O then, as now thy form, and mind, and soul
I worship with a love beyond controul ;
My curses, O Lucasta, will be deep ;
My cries for vengeance will no measure keep !"
And his exhausted frame upon the plain
Sank senseless, as if ne'er to rise again !
Beneath the scorching sun his temples beat ;
His bosom panted with convulsive heat !
Till Night, that shed the shivering mists, awoke
His slumb'rous reason; and from trance he broke!
v.57–v.76His tottering feet, that knew but troubled rest,
Forward upon his anxious errand press'd.
" O falling dews, my veins tumultuous calm ;
And bathe my temples in your vapoury balm !
Bring back the Star, whose gentle light alone
Reason and Love can in my breast re-throne !
And bid the Demon raging there pursue
In more congenial hearts her sister crew !"
Lucasta struggling with the toils of Fate !
Sick was her heart ; and drench'd her tender form
In all the fury of the pelting storm:
When once again the peasant's cheering fire
Warmth to her sinking strength began inspire.
On a rude seat, before a blazing flame,
Sleep came resistless o'er her wearied frame.
Faint hues began to mantle on her cheek ;
And Norville's name her whispering lips to speak ;
When uncontroul'd, Fitz-John with idol view
His eyes upon the wond'rous Fair-one threw !
Fairer than Poets fancy in their dreams ;
But fairer still in all those charms, that roll
Tides of impetuous rapture to the soul,
The fountain of an heart, where Virtue reigns,
And Fortitude her glorious task sustains !
O bliss unspeakable, who unreprest,
And pure in love, may on that bosom rest !"
The sleeping Fair one's hand, and printed there
A kiss unhallow'd. Quick a voice, half scream,
Half an hoarse groan, through the low casement came ;
And thundering through the door, a maniac Form
Dash'd to the hearth in fell Revenge's storm :
A sword was in his hand ; and to Fitz-John
Wildly he urg'd the fatal weapon on :
Lucasta waken'd by the loud surprise,
Half saw her Norville with distracted eyes :
v.95–v.115And shrieking ran the deadly point to bend ;
And turn it from the bosom of a friend !
" Norville !" she would have said ; but on her tongue
That name of fondness half-unutter'd hung :
With fury blind, half senseless of the deed,
Half urg'd to vengeance new, with wilder speed
He drove the thirsty blade; and through the heart
Of lov'd Lucasta pierc'd its mortal dart.
A faint sigh from her quivering lips was given ;
And on that sigh her soul went forth to heaven.
The crimson tide, that issu'd from her breast,
A moment Norville's maniac rage represt.
He paus'd; and shook; and gaz'd with haggard eye;
And utter'd a shrill agonizing cry ;
Then issuing forth in all the pangs of hell,
Fled but a step, ere yet he turn'd the steel
Inward upon himself, and lifeless fell !
The Song funereal to thy deeds refuse ;
And rather o'er unutterable woe
The mantle of expressive Silence throw !
v.116–v.132Ah bold Fitz-John ! in that tremendous hour
How bent thy spirit to Affliction's power !
Full many a month, desponding and alone,
Didst thou thy wearisome existence moan !
Till Time, that melts the deepest hues of Grief,
Through Fancy's softening radiance brought relief.
On those wild sorrows of his heart to brood :
Ye Towers, that long have call'd your absent Lord,
And fondly hop'd that Glory's proud reward
Once more your reverend battlements should grace,
And deck with honours new the noble Race,
Whom Time and Chance could never yet efface !
He comes ! However yet disguis'd in name,
Your Bertram comes, his ancient home to claim !
Hark, the Hall echoes ! Wide the massy gate
Unfolds the venerable Castle's state.
v.133–v.149Across the spacious courts he hurries on ;
While round him flit the Ghosts of Pleasures gone.
Grim - visag'd Chiefs look frowning from the walls ;
And each soft Beauty, as in pity, calls !
Ere yet the bud of boyish hope had bloom'd ;
Which through long vistas golden views display'd !
And Fairy Forms in golden light array'd !
Since Sorrow's veil the garb of Bliss supplies,
How deep the contrast strikes your Chieftain's eyes !
For him no wish fulfill'd ; no promise done ;
The field of Victory is vainly won !
There is a gnawing vulture at his heart,
Ready, if Joy but heaves, his claws to dart,
And poison through the springing life impart.
That smiling still your fabric firm could hold
v.150–v.165Against the gathering tide of Time, whose sway
Towers, castles, palaces, has borne away,
Ah, little now avails your constancy
To soothe your anxious Lord's unceasing sigh !
Proud ancient Trees, that wav'd o'er many an head
Of heroes, laid for ages with the dead !
That mutter'd o'er their dreams ; and through their Towers
Shriek'd in the wint'ry storm at midnight hours !
Deep sheltering Woods, that echoing to the horn,
Cheer'd, when the huntsman wak'd the misty Morn,
No more ye soothe your Chieftain's cares ; no more
Life to his fading vigour ye restore !
Visits his dreams, and haunts his shuddering sight ;
Whose bosom, streaming with the deadly blow,
Clouds the long day with never-varying woe ;
v.166–v.186To Thee he utters the repentant prayer :
For Thee the sighing of the lonely air
Seems a deep melancholy tone to bear !
" Lucasta, Lamp of Heaven, whose light benign
Seem'd like a Star 'mid earthly beams to shine ;
Brilliant as those immortal rays above,
Yet not beyond the reach of earthly love ;
Angel, of charms too heavenly to remain
Long in this vale of wickedness and pain !
Yet curst beyond the curse of human ill,
That He, whom most thy worth with awe could thrill,
That He should draw thy fate upon his head ;
And by his own misdeed should mourn thee dead !
Norville, fond faithful friend ; whose holy flame
A worthier meed in better worlds may claim ;
Grievous as is my crime, yet look below,
And soothe the pangs of my incessant woe !
Methinks, e'en now, thy view is downward cast ;
With grief, not ire, thou ey'st thy sufferings past ;
See'st me in tears the wretched hours employ,
While thou art bathing in empyreal joy !
By day, by night, I oft retire to sigh,
While the leaves round me close their thickening shades,
And sadly the lone hollow breeze upbraids !
There mute I sit, and bathe the turf with tears,
Till lost in inward thought my soul appears,
In mingled thrills and pangs of hopes and fears,
To plead before the blazing throne of Heaven,
Angel, and Friend, of you to be forgiven !"
The griefs and perils borne in Glory's chase !
Such were the hours of unabated pains,
That greeted Bertram on his native plains !
O Thou, who saw'st his Towers of proud display!
Who saw'st his flattering range of feudal sway !
Who saw'st his graceful figure's symmetry,
And saw'st the genius darting from his eye !
Who heard'st the eloquence breathing from his tongue,
And on the glowings of his heart hast hung !
v.206–v.213Wonder no more, whate'er the outward show,
If dwells within unconquerable woe !
Not to the rich is happiness assign'd ;
Not to the high belongs the peaceful mind ;
Not by the gifts of genius, or of frame,
The shrines of Bliss preserve the inward flame !
Not Talent, Beauty, Station, Wealth, or Birth ;
Not Virtue's self, can shield from woe on earth !
At the private Press of LEE PRIORY, Kent.