THE first, the very first; oh! none
Can feel again as they have done;
In love, in war, in pride, in all
The planets of life’s coronal,
However beautiful or bright,–
What can be like their first sweet light?
When will the youth feel as he felt,
When first at beauty’s feet he knelt?
As if her least smile could confer
A kingdom on its worshipper;
Or ever care, or ever fear
Had cross’d love’s morning hemisphere.
And the young bard, the first time praise
Sheds its spring sunlight o’er his lays,
Though loftier laurel, higher name,
May crown the minstrel’s noontide fame,
They will not bring the deep content
Of his lure’s first encouragement.
And where the glory that will yield
The flush and glow of his first field
To the young chief? Will RAYMOND ever
Feel as he now is feeling?–Never.
The sun wept down or ere they gain’d
The glen where the chief band remain’d.
It was a lone and secret shade,
As nature form’d an ambuscade
For the bird’s nest and the deer’s lair,
Though now less quiet guests were there.
On one side like a fortress stood
A mingled pine and chesnut wood;
Autumn was falling, but the pine
Seem’d as it mock’d all change; no sign
Of season on its leaf was seen,
The same dark gloom of changeless green.
But like the gorgeous Persian bands
‘Mid the stern race of northern lands,
The chesnut boughs were bright with all
That gilds and mocks the autumn’s fall.
Like stragglers from an army’s rear
Gradual they grew, near and less near,
Till ample space was left to raise,
Amid the trees, the watch-fire’s blaze;
And there, wrapt in their cloaks around,
The soldiers scatter’d o’er the ground.
One was more crowded than the rest,
And to that one was RAYMOND prest;–
There sat the chief: kind greetings came
At the first sound of RAYMOND’S name.
‘Am I not proud that this should be,
Thy first field to be fought with me:
Years since thy father’s sword and mine
Together dimm’d their maiden shine.
We were sworn brothers; when he fell
‘Twas mine to hear his last farewell:
And how revenged I need not say,
Though few were left to tell that day.–
Thy brow is his, and thou wilt wield
A sword like his in battle-field.
Let the day break, and thou shalt ride
Another RAYMOND by my side;
And thou shalt win and I confer,
To-morrow, knightly brand and spur.’
With thoughts of pride, and thoughts of grief,
Sat RAYMOND by that stranger chief,
So proud to hear his father’s fame,
So sad to hear that father’s name,
And then to think that he had known
That father by his name alone;
And aye his heart within him burn’d
When his eye to DE VALENCE turn’d,
Mark’d his high step, his warlike mien,–
‘And such my father would have been!’
A few words of years past away,
A few words of the coming day,
They parted, not that night for sleep;
RAYMOND had thoughts that well might keep
Rest from his pillow,–memory, hope,
In youth’s horizon had full scope
To blend and part each varied line
Of cloud and clear, of shade and shine.
–He rose and wander’d round, the light
Of the full moon fell o’er each height;
Leaving the wood behind in shade,
O’er rock, and glen, and rill it play’d.
He follow’d a small stream whose tide
Was bank’d by lilies on each side,
And there, as if secure of rest,
A swan had built her lonely nest;
And spread out was each lifted wing,
Like snow or silver glittering.
Wild flowers grew around the dale,
Sweet children of the sun and gale;
From every crag the wild vine fell,
To all else inaccessible;
And where a dark rock rose behind,
Their shelter from the northern wind,
Grew myrtles with their fragrant leaves,
Veil’d with the web the gossamer weaves,
So pearly fair, so light, so frail,
Like beauty’s self more than her veil.–
And first to gaze upon the scene,
Quiet as there had never been
Heavier step than village maid
With flowers for her nuptial braid,
Or louder sound than hermit’s prayer,
To crush its grass or load its air.
Then to look on the armed train,
The watch-fire on the wooded plain,
And think how with the morrow’s dawn,
Would banner wave, and blade be drawn;
How clash of steel, and trumpet’s swell,
Would wake the echoes of each dell.
–And thus it ever is with life,
Peace sleeps upon the breast of Strife,
But to be waken’d from its rest,
Till comes that sleep the last and best.
And RAYMOND paused at last, and laid
Himself beneath a chesnut’s shade,
A little way apart from all,
That he might catch the waterfall,
Whose current swept like music round,–
When suddenly another sound
Came on the ear; it was a tone,
Rather a murmur than a song,
As he who breathed deem’d all unknown
The words, thoughts, echo bore along.
Parting the boughs which hung between,
Close, thick, as if a tapestried screen,
RAYMOND caught sight of a white plume
Waving o’er brow and cheek of bloom;
And yet the song was sad and low,
As if the chords it waked were woe.
SONG OF THE YOUNG KNIGHT.
YOUR scarf is bound upon my breast,
Your colours dance upon my crest,–
They have been soil’d by dust and rain,
And they must wear a darker stain.
I mark’d thy tears as fast they fell,
I saw but heard not thy farewell,
I gave my steed the spur and rein,–
I dared not look on thee again.
My cheek is pale, but not with fears,
And I have dash’d aside my tears;
This woman’s softness of my breast
Will vanish when my spear’s in rest.
I know that farewell was our last,
That life and love from me are past;
For I have heard the fated sign
That speaks the downfall of our line.
I slept the soldier’s tired sleep;
But yet I heard the music sweep,
Dim, faint, as when I stood beside
The bed whereon my father died.
Farewell, sweet love! never again
Will thine ear listen to the strain
With which so oft at midnight’s hour
I’ve waked the silence of thy bower.
Farewell! I would not tears should stain
Thy fair cheek with their burning rain:
Tears, sweet! would an ill offering be
To one whose death was worthy thee.
RAYMOND thought on that song next day
When bleeding that young warrior lay,
While his hand, in its death-pang, prest
A bright curl to his wounded breast.
AND waning stars, and brightening sky,
And on the clouds a crimson dye,
And fresher breeze, and opening flowers,
Tell the approach of morning hours.
Oh, how can breath, and light, and bloom,
Herald a day of death and doom!
With knightly pennons, which were spread
Like mirror’s for the morning’s red,
Gather the ranks, while shout and horn
Are o’er the distant mountains borne.
‘Twas a fair sight, that arm’d array
Winding through the deep vale their way,
Helmet and breast-plate gleaming in gold,
Banners waving their crimson fold,
Like clouds of the day-break: hark to the peal
Of the war-cry, answer’d by clanging steel!
The young chief strokes his courser’s neck,
The ire himself had provoked to check,
Impatient for that battle plain
He may reach but never leave again;
And with flashing eye and sudden start,
He hears the trumpet’s stately tone,
Like the echo of his beating heart,
And meant to rouse his ear alone.
And by his side the warrior grey,
With hair as white as the plumes that play
Over his head, yet spurs he as proud,
As keen as the youngest knight of the crowd:
And glad and glorious on they ride
In strength and beauty, power and pride.
And such the morning, but let day
Close on that gallant fair array,
The moon will see another sight
Than that which met the dawning light.–
Look on that field,–’tis the battle field!
Look on what harvest victory will yield!
There the steed and his rider o’erthrown,
Crouch together, their warfare is done:
The bolt is undrawn, the bow is unbent,
And the archer lies like his arrow spent.
Deep is the banner of crimson dyed,
But not with the red of its morning pride;
Torn and trampled with soil and stain,
When will it float on the breeze again;–
And over the ghastly plain are spread,
Pillow’d together, the dying and dead.
There lay one with an unclosed eye
Set in bright, cold vacancy,
While on its fix’d gaze the moonbeam shone,
Light mocking the eye whose light was gone;
And by his side another lay,
The life-blood ebbing fast away,
But calm his cheek and calm his eye,
As if leant on his mother’s bosom to die.
Too weak to move, he feebly eyed
A wolf and a vulture close to his side,
Watching and waiting, himself the prey,
While each one kept the other away.
Little of this the young warrior deems
When, with heart and head all hopes and dreams,
He hastes for the battle:–The trumpet’s call
Waken’d RAYMOND the first of all;
His the first step that to stirrup sprung,
His the first banner upwards flung;
And brow and cheek with his spirit glow’d,
When first at DE VALENCE’S side he rode.
The quiet glen is left behind,
The dark wood lost in the blue sky;
When other sounds come on the wind,
And other pennons float on high.
With snow-white plumes and glancing crest,
And standard raised, and spear in rest,
On a small river’s farther banks
Wait their approach Sir HERBERT’S ranks.–
One silent gaze, as if each band
Could slaughter both with eye and hand.
Then peals the war-cry! then the dash
Amid the waters! and the crash
Of spears,–the falchion’s iron ring,–
The arrow hissing from the string,
Tell they have met. Thus from the height
The torrent rushes in its might.
With the lightning’s speed, the thunder’s peal,
Flashes the lance, and strikes the steel.
Many a steed to the earth is borne,
Many a banner trampled and torn;
Or ever its brand could strike a blow,
Many a gallant arm lies low;–
Many a scarf, many a crest,
Float with the leaves on the river’s breast;
And strange it is to see how around
Buds and flowers strew the ground,
For the banks were cover’d with wild rose trees,
Oh! what should they do amid scenes like these.
In the blue stream, as it hovered o’er,
A hawk was mirror’d, and before
Its wings could reach yon pine, which stands
A bow-shot off from the struggling bands,
The stain of death was on the flood,
And the red waters roll’d dark with blood.–
RAYMOND’S spear was the first that flew,
He the first who dash’d the deep river through;
His step the first on the hostile strand,
And the first that fell was borne down by his hand.
The fight is ended:–the same sun
Has seen the battle lost and won;
The field is cover’d with dying and dead,
With the valiant who stood, and the coward who fled.
And a gallant salute the trumpets sound,
As the warriors gather from victory around.
On a hill that skirted the purple flood,
With his peers around, DE VALENCE stood,
And with bended knee, and forehead bare,
Save its cloud of raven hair,
And beautiful as some wild star
Come in its glory and light from afar,
With his dark eyes flashing stern and bright,
And his cheek o’erflooded with crimson light,
And the foeman’s banner over his head,
His first field’s trophy proudly spread,
Knelt RAYMOND down his boon to name,–
The knightly spurs he so well might claim:
And a softness stole to DE VALENCE’S eyes,
As he bade the new-made knight arise.–
From his own belt he took the brand,
And gave it into RAYMOND’S hand,
And said it might a memory yield
Of his father’s friend, and his own first field.
Pleasant through the darkening night
Shines from Clarin’s towers the light.
Home from the battle the warriors ride,
In the soldiers’ triumph, and soldiers’ pride:
The drawbridge is lower’d, and in they pour,
Like the sudden rush of a summer shower,
While the red torch-light bursts through the gloom,
Over banner and breast-plate, helm and plume.
Sudden a flood of lustre play’d
Over a lofty ballustrade,
Music and perfume swept the air,
Messengers sweet for the spring to prepare;
And like a sunny vision sent
For worship and astonishment,
Aside a radiant ladye flung
The veil that o’er her beauty hung.
With stately grace to those below,
She bent her gem encircled brow,
And bade them welcome in the name
Of her they saved, the castle’s dame,
Who had not let another pay
Thanks, greeting to their brave array,–
But she had vow’d the battle night
To fasting, prayer, and holy rite.
On the air the last tones of the music die,
The odour passes away like a sigh,
The torches flash a parting gleam,
And she vanishes as she came, like a dream.
But many an eye dwelt on the shade,
Till fancy again her form display’d,
And still again seem’d many an ear
The softness of her voice to hear.
And many a heart had a vision that night,
Which future years never banish’d quite.
And sign and sound of festival
Are ringing through that castle hall;
Tapers, whose flame send a perfumed cloud,
Flash their light o’er a gorgeous crowd;
With a thousand colours the tapestry falls
Over the carved and gilded walls,
And, between, the polish’d oak pannels hear,
Like dark mirrors, the image of each one there.
At one end the piled up hearth is spread
With sparkling embers of glowing red:
Above the branching antlers have place,
Sign of many a hard won chase;
And beneath, in many a polish’d line,
The arms of the hunter and warrior shine;
And around the fire, like a laurell’d arch,
Raised for some victor’s triumphal march,
The wood is fretted with tracery fair,
And green boughs and flowers are waving there.
Lamps, like faery planets shine,
O’er massive cups of the genial wine,
And shed a ray more soft and fair
Than the broad red gleam of the torch’s glare;
And, flitting like a rainbow, plays
In beautiful and changing rays,
When from the pictured windows fall
The colour’d shadows o’er the hall;
As every pane some bright hue lent
To vary the lighted element.
The ladye of the festive board
Was ward to the castle’s absent lord;
The Ladye ADELINE ,–the same
Bright vision that with their greeting came
Maidens four stood behind her chair,
Each one was young, and each one fair;
Yet they were but as the stars at night
When the mood shines forth in her fullness of light
On the knot of her wreathed hair was set
A blood-red ruby coronet;
But among the midnight cloud of curls
That hung o’er her brow were eastern pearls,
As if to tell their wealth of snow,
How white her forehead could look below.
Around her floated a veil of white,
Like the silvery rack round the star of twilight;
And down to the ground her mantle’s fold
Spread its length of purple and gold;
And sparkling gems were around her arm,
That shone like marble, only warm,
With the blue veins wandering tide,
And the hand with its crimson blush inside.
A zone of precious stones embraced
The graceful circle of her waist,
Sparkling as if they were proud
Of the clasp to them allow’d.
But yet there was ‘mid this excess
Of soft and dazzling loveliness,
A something in the eye, and hand,
And forehead, speaking of command:
An eye whose dark flash seem’d allied
To even more than beauty’s pride,–
A hand as only used to wave
Its sign to worshipper and slave,–
A forehead, but that was too fair
To read of aught but beauty there!
And RAYMOND had the place of pride,
The place so envied by her side,–
The victor’s seat,–and overhead
The banner he had won was spread.
His health was pledged!–he only heard
The murmur of one silver word;
The pageant seem’d to fade away,
Vanish’d the board and glad array,
The gorgeous hall around grew dim,
There shone one only light for him,
That radiant form, whose brightness fell
In power upon him like a spell,
Laid in its strength by Love to reign
Despotic over heart and brain.
Silent he stood amid the mirth,
Oh, love is timid in its birth!
Watching her lightest look or stir,
As he but look’d and breathed with her.
Gay words were passing, but he leant
In silence; yet, one quick glance sent,–
His secret is no more his own,
When has woman her power not known?
The feast broke up:–that midnight shade
Heard many a gentle serenade
Beneath the ladye’s lattice. One
Breathed after all the rest were gone.
SLEEP , ladye! for the moonlit hour,
Like peace, is shining on thy bower;
It is so late, the nightingale
Has ended even his love tale.
Sleep, ladye! ‘neath thy turret grows,
Cover’d with flowers, one pale white rose;
I envy its sweet sighs, they steep
The perfumed airs that lull thy sleep.
Perchance, around thy chamber floats
The music of my lone lute notes,–
Oh, may they on thine eyelids fall,
And make thy slumbers musical!
Sleep, ladye! to thy rest be given
The gleamings of thy native heaven,
And thoughts of early paradise,
The treasures of thy sleeping eyes.
I NEED not say whose was the song
The sighing night winds bore along.
RAYMOND had left the maiden’s side
As one too dizzy with the tide
To breast the stream, or strive, or shrink,
Enough for him to feel, not think;
Enough for him the dim sweet fear,
The twilight of the heart, or ere
Awakening hope has named the name
Of love, or blown its spark to flame.
Restlessness, but as the winds range
From leaf to leaf, from flower to flower;
Changefulness, but as rainbows change,
From colour’d sky to sunlit hour.
Ay, well indeed may minstrel sing,–
What have the heart and year like spring?
Her vow was done: the castle dame
Next day to join the revellers came;
And never had a dame more gay
O’er hall or festival held sway.
And youthful knight, and ladye fair,
And juggler quaint, and minstrel rare,
And mirth, and crowds, and music, all
Of pleasure gather’d at her call.
And RAYMOND moved as in a dream
Of song and odour, bloom and beam,
As he dwelt in a magic bower,
Charm’d from all by fairy power.
–And ADELINE rode out that morn,
With hunting train, and hawk, and horn;
And broider’d rein, and curb of gold,
And housings with their purple fold
Decked the white steed o’er which she leant
Graceful as a young cypress, bent
By the first summer wind: she wore
A cap the heron plume waved o’er,
And round her wrist a golden band,
Which held the falcon on her hand.
The bird’s full eye, so clear, so bright,
Match’d not her own’s dark flashing light.
And RAYMOND , as he watch’d the dyes
Of her cheek rich with exercise,
Could almost deem her beauty’s power
Was now in its most potent hour;
But when at night he saw her glance
The gayest of the meteor dance,
The jewels in her braided hair,
Her neck, her arms of ivory bare,
The silver veil, the broider’d vest,–
Look’d she not then her loveliest?
Ah, every change of beauty’s face
And beauty’s shape has its own grace!
That night his heart throbb’d when her hand
Met his touch in the saraband:
That night her smile first bade love live
On the sweet life that hope can give.–
Beautiful, but thrice wayward, wild,
Capricious as a petted child,
She was all chance, all change; but now
A smile is on her radiant brow,–
A moment and that smile is fled,
Coldness and scorn are there instead.
Ended the dance, and ADELINE
Flung herself, like an eastern queen,
Upon the cushions which were laid
Amid a niche of that gay hall,
Hid from the lamps; around it play’d
The softness of the moonlight fall.
And there the gorgeous shapes past by
But like a distant pageantry,
In which you have yourself no share,
For all its pride, and pomp, and care.
She pass’d her hand across the chords
Of a lute near, and with soft words
Answer’d; then said, ‘no, thou shalt sing
Some legend of the fair and brave.’
To RAYMOND’S hand the lute she gave,
Whose very soul within him burn’d
When her dark eye on his was turn’d:
One moment’s pause, it slept not long,–
His spirit pour’d itself in song.
THE lady sits in her lone bower,
With cheek wan as the white rose flower
That blooms beside, ’tis pale and wet
As that rose with its dew pearls set.
Her cheek burns with a redder dye,
Flashes light from her tearful eye;
She has heard pinions beat the air,
She sees her white dove floating there;
And well she knows its faithful wing,
The treasure of her heart will bring;
And takes the gentle bird its stand
Accustom’d on the maiden’s hand,
With glancing eye and throbbing breast,
As if rejoicing in its rest.
She read the scroll,–‘dear love, to-night
By the lake, all is there for flight
What time the moon is down;–oh, then
My own life shall we meet again!’
One upward look of thankfulness,
One pause of joy, one fond caress
Of her soft lips, as to reward
The messenger of EGINHARD.
That night in her proud father’s hall
She shone the fairest one of all;
For like the cloud of evening came
Over her cheek the sudden flame,
And varying as each moment brought
Some hasty change of secret thought;
As if its colour would confess
The conscious heart’s inmost recess.
And the clear depths of her dark eye
Were bright with troubled brilliancy,
Yet the lids droop’d as with the tear
Which might oppress but not appear.
And flatteries, and smile and sigh
Loaded the air as she past by.
It sparkled, but her jewell’d vest
Was crost above a troubled breast:
Her curls, with all their sunny glow,
Were braided o’er an aching brow:
But well she knew how many sought
To gaze upon her secret thought;–
And Love is proud,–she might not brook
That other’s on her heart should look.
But there she sate, cold, pale, and high,
Beneath her purple canopy;
And there was many a mutter’d word,
And one low whisper’d name was heard,–
The name of EGINHARD ,–that name
Like some forbidden secret came.
The theme went, that he dared to love
One like a star his state above;
Here to the princess turn’d each eye,–
And it was said, he did not sigh
With love that pales the pining cheek,
And leaves the slighted heart to break.
And then a varying tale was told,
How a page had betray’d for gold;
But all was rumour light and vain,
That all might hear, but none explain.
Like one that seeks a festival,
Early the princess left the hall;
Yet said she, sleep dwelt on her eyes,
That she was worn with revelries.
And hastily her maidens’ care
Unbinds the jewels from her hair.
Odours are round her chamber strown,
And ELENORE is left alone.
With throbbing heart, whose pulses beat
Louder than fall her ivory feet,
She rises from her couch of down;
And, hurriedly, a robe is thrown
Around her form, and her own hand
Lets down her tresses golden band.
Another moment she has shred
Those graceful tresses from her head.
There stands a plate of polish’d steel,
She folds her cloak as to conceal
Her strange attire, for she is drest
As a young page in dark green vest.
Softly she steps the balustrade,
Where myrtle, rose, and hyacinth made
A passage to the garden shade.
It was a lovely summer night,
The air was incense-fill’d, the light
Was dim and tremulous, a gleam,
When a star, mirror’d on the stream,
Sent a ray round just to reveal
How gales from flower to flower steal.
‘It was on such a night as this,
When even a single breath is bliss,
Such a soft air, such a mild heaven,
My vows to EGINHARD were given.’
Sigh’d ELENORE , ‘Oh, might it be
A hope, a happy augury!’
She reach’d the lake,–a blush, a smile,
Contended on her face the while;
And safely in a little cove,
Shelter’d by willow trees above,
An ambuscade from all secured,
Her lover’s little boat lay moor’d.–
One greeting word, with muffled oar,
And silent lip, they left that shore.
It was most like a phantom dream
To see that boat flit o’er the stream,
So still, that but yet less and less
It grew, it had seem’d motionless.
And then the silent lake, the trees
Visible only when the breeze
Aside the shadowy branches threw,
And let one single star shine through,
While the faint glimmer scarcely gave
To view the wanderers of the wave.
The breeze has borne the clouds away
That veil’d the blushes of young day;
The lark has sung his morning song;–
Surely the princess slumbers long.
And now it is the accustom’d hour
Her royal father seeks her bower,
When her soft voice and gentle lute,
The snowfall of her fairy foot,
The flowers she has cull’d, with dew
Yet moist upon each rainbow hue;
The fruits with bloom upon their cheek,
Fresh as the morning’s first sun streak;
Each, all conspired to wile away
The weariness of royal sway.
But she is gone: there hangs her lute,
And there it may hang lone and mute:
The flowers may fade, for who is there
To triumph now if they are fair:
There are her gems,–oh, let them twine
An offering round some sainted shrine!
For she who wore them may not wear
Again those jewels in her hair.
At first the monarch’s rage was wild;
But soon the image of his child,
In tenderness rose on his heart,
How could he bear from it to part?
And anger turn’d to grief: in vain
Ambition had destroy’d the chain
With which love had bound happiness.
In vain remorse, in vain redress,–
Fruitless all search. And years past o’er,
No tidings came of ELENORE,
Although the king would have laid down
His golden sceptre, purple crown,
His pomp, his power, but to have prest
His child one moment to his breast.
And where was ELENORE ? her home
Was now beneath the forest dome;–
A hundred knights had watch’d her hall,
Her guards were now the pine trees tall:
For harps waked with the minstrel tale,
Sang to her sleep the nightingale:
For silver vases, where were blent
Rich perfumes from Arabia sent,
Were odours when the wild thyme flower
Wafted its sweets on gale and shower:
For carpets of the purple loom
The violets spread their cloud of bloom,
Starr’d with primroses; and around
Boughs like green tapestry swept the ground.
–And there they dwelt apart from all
That gilds and mocks ambition’s thrall;
Apart from cities, crowds, and care,
Hopes that deceive, and toils that wear;
For they had made themselves a world
Like that or ever man was hurl’d
From his sweet Eden, to begin
His bitter course of grief and sin.–
And they were happy; EGINHARD
Had won the prize for which he dared
Dungeon and death; but what is there
That the young lover will not dare?
And she, though nurtured as a flower,
The favourite bud of a spring bower,
Daughter of palaces, yet made
Her dwelling place in the green shade;
Happy, as she remember’d not
Her royal in her peasant lot,–
With gentle cares, and smiling eyes
As love could feel no sacrifice.
Happy her ivory brow to lave
Without a mirror but the wave,
As one whose sweetness could dispense
With all save its own excellence;–
A fair but gentle creature, meant
For heart, and hearth, and home content.
It was at night the chase was over,
And ELENORE sat by her lover,–
Her lover still, though years had fled
Since their first word of love was said,–
When one sought, at that darksome hour,
The refuge of their lonely bower,
A hunter, who, amid the shade,
Had from his own companions stray’d.
And ELENORE gazed on his face,
And knew her father! In the chase
Often the royal mourner sought
A refuge from his one sad thought.
He knew her not,–the lowly mien,
The simple garb of forest green,
The darken’d brow, which told the spoil
The sun stole from her daily toil,
The cheek where woodland health had shed
The freshness of its morning red,–
All was so changed. She spread the board,
Her hand the sparkling wine cup pour’d;
And then around the hearth they drew,
And cheerfully the woodfire threw
Its light around.–Bent o’er her wheel
Scarcely dared ELENORE to steal
A look, half tenderness, half fear,
Yet seem’d he as he loved to hear
Her voice, as if it had a tone
Breathing of days and feelings gone.
‘Ah! surely,’ thought she, ‘Heaven has sent
My father here, as that it meant,
Our years of absence ended now!’
She gazed upon his soften’d brow;
And the next moment, all revealing,
ELENORE at his feet is kneeling!–
Need I relate that, reconciled,
The father bless’d his truant child.
WHERE is the heart that has not bow’d
A slave, eternal Love, to thee:
Look on the cold, the gay, the proud,
And is there one among them free?
The cold, the proud,–oh! Love has turn’d
The marble till with fire it burn’d;
The gay, the young,–alas that they
Should ever bend beneath thy sway!
Look on the cheek the rose might own,
The smile around like sunshine thrown;
The rose, the smile, alike are thine,
To fade and darken at thy shrine.
And what must love be in a heart
All passion’s fiery depths concealing,
Which has in its minutest part
More than another’s whole of feeling.
And RAYMOND’S heart; love’s morning sun
On fitter altar never shone;
Loving with all the snow-white truth,
That is found but in early youth;
Freshness of feeling as of flower,
That lives not more than spring’s first hour;
And loving with that wild devotion,
That deep and passionate emotion,
With which the minstrel soul is thrown
On all that it would make its own.
And RAYMOND loved; the veriest slave
That e’er his life to passion gave:
Upon his ear no murmur came
That seem’d not echoing her name;
The lightest colour on her cheek
Was lovelier than the morning break.
He gazed upon her as he took
His sense of being from her look:–
Sometimes it was idolatry,
Like homage to some lovely star,
Whose beauty though for hope too high,
He yet might worship from afar.
At other times his heart would swell
With tenderness unutterable:
He would have borne her to an isle
Where May and June had left their smile;
And there, heard but by the lone gale,
He would have whisper’d his love tale;
And without change, or cloud, or care,
Have kept his bosom’s treasure there.
And then, with all a lover’s pride,
He thought it shame such gem to hide:
And imaged he a courtly scene
Of which she was the jewell’d queen,–
The one on whom each glance was bent,
The beauty of the tournament,
The magnet of the festival,
The grace, the joy, the life of all,–
But she, alas for her false smile!
ADELINE loved him not the while.
And is it thus that woman’s heart
Can trifle with its dearest part,
Its own pure sympathies?–can fling
The poison’d arrow from the string
In utter heartlessness around,
And mock, or think not of the wound?
And thus can woman barter all
That makes and gilds her gentle thrall,–
The blush which should be like the one
White violets hide from the sun,–
The soft, low sighs, like those which breathe
In secret from a twilight wreath,–
The smile like a bright lamp, whose shine
Is vow’d but only to one shrine;
All these sweet spells,–and can they be
Weapons of reckless vanity?
And woman, in whose gentle heart
From all save its sweet self apart,
Love should dwell with that purity
Which but in woman’s love can be:
A sacred fire, whose flame was given
To shed on earth the light of heaven,–
That she can fling her wealth aside
In carelessness, or sport, or pride!
It was not form’d for length of bliss,
A dream so fond, so false as this;
Enough for ADELINE to win
The heart she had no pleasure in,–
Enough that bright eyes turn’d in vain
On him who bow’d beneath her chain:–
Then came the careless word and look,
All the fond soul so ill can brook,
The jealous doubt, the burning pain,
That rack the lover’s heart and brain;
The fear that will not own it fear,
The hope that cannot disappear;
Faith clinging to its visions past,
And trust confiding to the last.
And thus it is: ay, let Love throw
Aside his arrows and his bow;
But let him not with one spell part,
The veil that binds his eyes and heart.
Woe for Love when his eyes shall be
Open’d upon reality!
One day a neighbouring baron gave
A revel to the fair and brave,–
And knights upon their gallant steeds,
And ladies on their palfreys gray,
All shining in their gayest weeds,
Held for the festival their way.
A wanderer on far distant shores,
That baron, had brought richest stores
To his own hall, and much of rare
And foreign luxury was there:
Pages, with colour’d feathers, fann’d
The odours of Arabia’s land;
The carpets strewn around each room
Were all of Persia’s purple loom;
And dark slaves waited on his guests,
Each habited in Moorish vests,
With turbann’d brows, and bands of gold
Around their arms and ancles roll’d.
And gazed the guests o’er many a hoard,
Like Sinbad’s, from his travel stored.
They look’d upon the net work dome,
Where found the stranger birds a home,
With rainbow wings and gleaming eyes,
Seen only beneath Indian skies.
At length they stood around the ring,
Where stalk’d, unchain’d, the forest king,
With eyes of fire and mane erect,
As if by human power uncheck’d.
Full ill had RAYMOND’S spirit borne
The wayward mood, the careless scorn,
With which his mistress had that day
Trifled his happiness away.–
His very soul within him burn’d,
When, as in chance, her dark eye turn’d
On him, she spoke in reckless glee,–
”Is there a knight who, for love of me,
Into the court below will spring,
And bear from the lion the glove I fling?’
A shriek!–a pause,–then loud acclaim
Rose to the skies with RAYMOND’S name.
Oh, worthy of a lady’s love!
RAYMOND has borne away the glove.
He laid the prize at the maiden’s feet,
Then turn’d from the smile he dared not meet:
A moment more he is on the steed,
The spur has urged to its utmost speed,
As that he could fly from himself, and all
The misery of his spirit’s thrall.
The horse sank down, and RAYMOND then
Started to see the foaming rein,
The drops that hung on the courser’s hide,
And the rowel’s red trace on its panting side;
And deep shame mingled with remorse,
As he brought the cool stream to his fallen horse.
The spot where he paused was a little nook,
Like a secret page in nature’s book,–
Around were steeps where the wild vine
Hung, wreathed in many a serpentine,
Wearing each the colour’d sign
Of the autumn’s pale decline.
Like a lake in the midst was spread
A grassy sweep of softest green,
Smooth, flower-dropt, as no human tread
Upon its growth had ever been.
Limes rose around, but lost each leaf,
Like hopes luxuriant but brief;
And by their side the sycamore
Grew prouder of its scarlet store:
The air was of that cold clear light
That heralds in an autumn night,–
The amber west had just a surge
Of crimson on its utmost verge;
And on the east were piled up banks
Where darkness gather’d with her ranks
Of clouds, and in the midst a zone
Of white with transient brightness shone
From the young moon, who scarcely yet
Had donn’d her lighted coronet.
With look turn’d to the closing day,
As he watch’d every hue decay,
Sat RAYMOND ; and a passer by
Had envied him his reverie;–
But nearer look had scann’d his brow,
And started at its fiery glow,
As if the temples’ burning swell
Had made their pulses visible.
Too glazed, too fix’d, his large eyes shone
To see aught that they gazed upon.
Not his the paleness that may streak
The lover’s or the minstrel’s cheek,
As it had its wan colour caught
From moods of melancholy thought;
‘Twas that cold, dark, unearthly shade,
But for a corpse’s death look made;
Speaking that desperateness of pain,
As one more pang, and the rack’d brain
Would turn to madness; one more grief,
And the swoln heart breaks for relief.
Oh, misery! to see the tomb
Close over all our world of bloom;
To look our last in the dear eyes
Which made our light of paradise;
To know that silent is the tone
Whose tenderness was all our own;
To kiss the cheek which once had burn’d
At the least glance, and find it turn’d
To marble; and then think of all
Of hope, that memory can recall.
Yes, misery! but even here
There is a somewhat left to cheer,
A gentle treasuring of sweet things
Remembrance gathers from the past,
The pride of faithfulness, which clings
To love kept sacred to the last.
And even if another’s love
Has touch’d the heart to us above
The treasures of the east, yet still
There is a solace for the ill.
Those who have known love’s utmost spell
Can feel for those who love as well;
Can half forget their own distress,
To share the loved one’s happiness.
Oh, but to know our heart has been,
Like the toy of an Indian queen,
Torn, trampled, without thought or care,–
Where is despair like this despair!–
ll night beneath an oak he lay,
Till nature blush’d bright into day;
When, at a trumpet’s sudden sound,
Started his courser from the ground:
And his loud neigh waked RAYMOND’S dream,
And, gazing round, he saw the gleam
Of arms upon a neighbouring height,
Where helm and cuirass stream’d in light.
As RAYMOND rose from his unrest
He knew DE VALENCE’S falcon crest;
And the red cross that shone like a glory afar,
Told the warrior was vow’d to the holy war.
Ay, this,’ thought RAYMOND , ‘is the strife
To make my sacrifice of life;
What is it now to me that fame
Shall brighten over RAYMOND’S name;
There is no gentle heart to bound,
No cheek to mantle at the sound:
Lady’s favour no more I wear,–
My heart, my helm–oh! what are there?
A blighted hope, a wither’d rose.
Surely this warfare is for those
Who only of the victory crave
A holy but a nameless grave.’
Short greeting past; DE VALENCE read
All that the pale lip left unsaid;
On the wan brow, in the dimm’d eye,
The whole of youth’s despondency,
Which at the first shock it has known
Deems its whole world of hope o’erthrown.
And it was fix’d, that at Marseilles,
Where the fleet waited favouring gales,
RAYMOND should join the warrior train,
Leagued ‘gainst the infidels of Spain.
They parted:–Over RAYMOND’S thought
Came sadness mingled too with shame;
When suddenly his memory brought
The long forgotten EVA’S name.
Oh! Love is like the mountain tide,
Sweeping away all things beside,
Till not another trace appears
But its own joys, and griefs, and fears.
He took her cross, he took her chain
From the heart where they still had lain;
And that heart felt as if its fate
Had sudden grown less desolate,
In thus remembering love that still
Would share and sooth in good and ill.
He spurr’d his steed; but the night fall
Had darken’d ere he reach’d the hall;
And gladly chief and vassal train
Welcomed the youthful knight again.
And many praised his stately tread,
His face with darker manhood spread;
But of those crowding round him now,
Who mark’d the paleness of his brow,
But one, who paused till they were past,
Who look’d the first but spoke the last:
Her welcome in its timid fear
Fell almost cold on RAYMOND’S ear;
A single look,–he felt he gazed
Upon a gentle child no more,
The blush that like the lightning blazed,
The cheek then paler than before,
A something of staid maiden grace,
A cloud of thought upon her face;
She who had been, in RAYMOND’S sight,
A plaything, fancy, and delight,–
Was changed: the depth of her blue eye
Spoke to him now of sympathy,
And seem’d her melancholy tone
A very echo of his own;
And that pale forehead, surely care
Has graved an early lesson there.
They roved through many a garden scene,
Where other, happier days had been;
And soon had RAYMOND told his all
Of hopes, like stars but bright to fall;
Of feelings blighted, changed, and driven
Like exiles from their native heaven;
And of an aimless sword, a lute
Whose chords were now uncharm’d and mute.
But EVA’S tender blandishing
Was as the April rays, that fling
A rainbow till the thickest rain
Melts into blue and light again.
There is a feeling in the heart
Of woman which can have no part
In man; a self devotedness,
As victims round their idols press,
And asking nothing, but to show
How far their zeal and faith can go.
Pure as the snow the summer sun
Never at noon hath look’d upon,–
Deep as is the diamond wave,
Hidden in the desart cave,–
Changeless as the greenest leaves
Of the wreath the cypress weaves,–
Hopeless often when most fond,
Without hope or fear beyond
Its own pale fidelity,–
And this woman’s love can be!
And RAYMOND although not again
Dreaming of passion’s burning chain,
Yet felt that life had still dear things
To which the lingering spirit clings.
More dear, more lovely EVA shone
In thinking of that faithless one;
And read he not upon the cheek
All that the lip might never speak,
All the heart cherish’d yet conceal’d,
Scarce even to itself reveal’d.
And RAYMOND , though with heart so torn
By anger, agony, and scorn,
Might ill bear even with love’s name,
Yet felt the maiden’s hidden flame
Come like the day-star in the east,
When every other light has ceased;
Sent from the bosom of the night
To harbinger the morning light.
Again they parted: she to brood
O’er dreaming hopes in solitude,
And every pitying saint to pray
For RAYMOND on the battle day.
And he no longer deem’d the field
But death to all his hopes could yield.
To other, softer dreams allied,
He thought upon the warrior’s pride.
But as he pass’d the castle gate
He left so wholly desolate,
His throbbing pulse, his burning brain,
The sudden grasp upon the rein,
The breast and lip that gasp’d for air,
Told Love’s shaft was still rankling there.
That night, borne o’er the bounding seas,
The vessel swept before the breeze,
Loaded the air, the war-cry’s swell,
Woe to the Moorish infidel;
And raising their rich hymn, a band
Of priests were kneeling on the strand,
To bless the parting ship, and song
Came from the maidens ranged along
The sea wall, and who incense gave,
And flowers, like offerings to the wave
That bore the holy and the brave.
And RAYMOND felt his spirit rise,
And burn’d his cheek, and flash’d his eyes
With something of their ancient light,
While plume and pennon met his sight;
While o’er the deep swept the war-cry,
And peal’d the trumpet’s voice on high,
While the ship rode the waves as she
Were mistress of their destiny.
And muster’d on the deck the band,
Till died the last shout from the strand;
But when the martial pomp was o’er,
And, like the future, dim the shore
On the horizon hung, again
Closed RAYMOND’S memory, like a chain
The spirit struggles with in vain.
The sky with its delicious blue,
The stars like visions wandering through:
Surely, if Fate had treasured there
Her rolls of life, they must be fair;
The mysteries their glories hide
Must be but of life’s brightest side;
It cannot be that Fate would write
Her dark decrees in lines of light.
And RAYMOND mused upon the hour
When, comrade of the star and flower,
He watch’d beside his lady’s bower;
He number’d every hope and dream,
Like blooms that threw upon life’s stream
Colours of beauty, and then thought
On knowledge, all too dearly bought;
Feelings lit up in waste to burn,
Hopes that seem but shadows fair,
All that the heart so soon must learn,
All that it finds so hard to bear.
The young moon’s vestal lamp that hour
Seem’d pale as that it pined for love;
No marvel such a night had power,
So calm below, so fair above,
To wake the spirit’s finest chords
Till minstrel thoughts found minstrel words.
THE LAST SONG.
IT is the latest song of mine
That ever breathes thy name,
False idol of a dream-raised shrine,
Thy very thought is shame,–
Shame that I could my sprit bow
To one so very false as thou.
I had past years where the green wood
Makes twilight of the noon,
And I had watch’d the silver flood
Kiss’d by the rising moon;
And gazed upon the clear midnight
In all its luxury of light.
And, thrown where the blue violets dwell,
I would pass hours away,
Musing o’er some old chronicle
Fill’d with a wild love lay;
Till beauty seem’d to me a thing
Made for all nature’s worshipping.
saw thee, and the air grew bright
In thy clear eyes’ sunshine;
I oft had dream’d of shapes of light,
But not of shape like thine.
My heart bow’d down,–I worshipp’d thee,
A woman and a deity.
I may not say how thy first look
Turn’d my whole soul to flame,
I read it as a glorious book
Fill’d with high deeds of fame;
I felt a hero’s spirit rise,
Unknown till lighted at thine eyes.
False look, false hope, and falsest love!
All meteors sent to me
To show how they the heart could move,
And how deceiving be:
They left me, darken’d, crush’d, alone,
My bosom’s household gods o’erthrown.
The world itself was changed, and all
That I had loved before
Seem’d as if gone beyond recall,
And I could hope no more;
The sear of fire, the dint of steel,
Are easier than Love’s wounds to heal.
But this is past, and I can cope
With what I’d fain forget;
I have a sweet, a gentle hope
That lingers with me yet,–
A hope too fair, too pure to be
Named in the words that speak of thee.
Henceforth within the last recess
Of my heart shall remain
Thy name in all its bitterness,
But never named again;
The only memory of that heart
Will be to think how false thou art.
And yet I fain would name thy name,
My heart’s now gentle queen,
E’en as they burn the perfumed flame
Where the plague spot has been;
Methinks that it will cleanse away
The ills that on my spirit prey.
Sweet EVA ! the last time I gazed
Upon thy deep blue eyes,
The cheek whereon my look had raised
A blush’s crimson dyes,
I marvell’d, love, this heart of mine
Had worshipp’d at another shrine.
I will think of thee when the star,
That lit our own fair river,
Shines in the blue sky from afar,
As beautiful as ever;
That twilight star, sweet love, shall be
A sign and seal with thee and me!