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And lived two years on water-gruel,
And drank no wine, and used no fuel.
At last, when all the world had seen
How very virtuous she had been,
She left her chamber, dried her tears,
Kept open house for Cavaliers,
New furnished all the cob-webbed rooms,
And burned a fortune in perfumes.
She had seen six-and-thirty springs,
And still her blood's warm wanderings
Told tales in every throbbing vein
Of youth's high hope, and passion's reign,
And dreams from which that lady's heart
Had parted, or had seemed to part.
She had no wiles from cunning France,
Too cold to sing, too tall to dance;
But yet, where'er her footsteps went,
She was the Queen of Merriment:
She called the quickest at the table,
For Courcy's song, or Comine's fable,
Bade Barons quarrel for her glove,
And talked with Squires of ladie-love,
And hawked and hunted in all weathers,
And stood six feet—including feathers.
Her suitors, men of swords and banners,
Were very guarded in their manners,
And e'en when heated by the jorum
Knew the strict limits of decorum.
Well had Clotilda learned the glance
That checks a lover's first advance;
That brow to her was given
That chills presumption in its birth,
And mars the madness of our mirth,
And wakes the reptile of the earth
From the vision he hath of Heaven.
And yet for Vidal she could find
No word or look that was not kind,
With him she walked in shine or shower,
And quite forgot the dinner hour,
And gazed upon him, till he smiled,
As doth a mother on a child.
Oh! when was dream so purely dreamed!
A mother and a child they seemed:
In warmer guise he loved her not;—
And if, beneath the stars and moon,
He lingered in some lonely spot
To play her fond and favorite tune, And if he fed her petted mare, And made acquaintance with her bear, And kissed her hand whene'er she gave it And kneeled him down, sometimes, to crave it, 'Twas partly pride, and partly jest,
And partly 'twas a boyish whim, And that he liked to see the rest
Look angrily on her and him. And that—in short he was a boy, And doted on his last new toy.
It chanced that late, one summer's gloaming, The lady and the youth were roaming,
In converse close of those and these,
Beneath a long arcade of trees;
Tall trunks stood up on left and right,
Like columns in the gloom of night,
Breezeless and voiceless; and on high,
Where those eternal pillars ended,
The silent boughs so closely blended
Their mirk, unstirring majesty,
That superstition well might run,
To wander there from twelve to one,
And call strange shapes from heaven or hell,
Of cowl and candle, book and bell,
And kneel as in the vaulted aisle
Of some time-honored Gothic pile,
To pay her weary worship there
Of counted beads, and pattered prayer.
Clotilda had, for once, the vapors,
And when the stars lit up their tapers,
She said that she was very weary—
She liked the place, it was so dreary—
The dew was down on grass and flower,
'Twas very wet—'twas very wrong—
But she must rest for half an hour,
And listen to another song.
Then many a tale did Vidal tell
Of warrior's spear, and wizard's spell;
How that Sir Brian le Bleu had been
Cup-bearer to a fairy queen;
And how that a hundred years did pass,
And left his brow as smooth as glass;
Time on his form marked no decay,
He stole not a single charm away,'
He could not blight
That eye of light,
Nor turn those raven ringlets gray.
But Brian's love for a mortal maid,
Was written and read in a magic sign, When Brian slipped on the moonlight glade,
And spilled the fairy's odorous wine; And she dipped her fingers in the can,
And sprinkled him with seven sprinkles, And he went from her presence a weary man,
A withering lump of rheum and wrinkles.
And how that Satan made a bond
With Armonell of Trebizond—
A bond that was written at first in tears,
And torn at last in laughter—
To be his slave for a thousand years,
And his sovereign ever after.
And oh! those years, they fleeted fast,
And a single year remained at last,
A year for crouching and for crying,
Between his frolic and his frying.
"Toil yet another toil," quoth he,
"Or else thy prey I will not be,
Come hither, come hither, servant mine,
And call me back
The faded track
Of years nine hundred and ninety-nine!"
And Satan hied to his home again
On the wings of a blasting hurricane,
And left old Armonell to die,
And sleep in the odor of sanctity.
In mockery of the Minstrel's skill
The Lady's'brow grew darker still;
She trembled as she lay,
And o'er her face, like fitful flame,
The feverish color went and came,
And, in the pauses of the tune,
Her black eyes stared upon the moon
With an unearthly.ray.
"Good Vidal,"—as she spoke she leant So wildly o'er the instrument That wondering Vidal started back, For fear the strings should go to wrack— "Good Vidal, I have read and heard
Of many a haunted heath and dell, Where potency of wand or word,
Or chanted rhyme, or written spell, Hath burst, in such an hour as this,
The cerements of the rotting tomb, And waked from wo, or torn from bliss,
The heritors of chill and gloom,