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And who, in Beauty's gaudiest bowers,
Can love thee with more love than ours ?”
The minstrel turned with a moody look
From that sweet scene of guiltless glee;
From the old who talked beside the brook,
· And the young who danced beneath the tree:
Coldly he shrank from the gentle maid,
From the chiding look and the pleading tone;
And he passed from the old elm's hoary shade,
And followed the forest path alone. One little sigh, one pettish glance,
And the girl comes back to her playmates now, And takes her place in the merry dance,
With a slower step and a sadder brow.
“My soul is sick," saith the wayward boy,
“Of the peasant's grief, and the peasant's joy;
I cannot breathe on from day to day,
Like the insects which our wise men say
In the crevice of the cold rock dwell,
Till their shape is the shape of their dungeon's cell ;
In the dull repose of our changeless life,
I long for passion, I long for strife,
As in the calm the mariner sighs
For rushing waves and groaning skies.
Oh for the lists, the lists of fame!
Oh for the herald's glad acclaim;
For floating pennon and prancing steed,
And Beauty's wonder at Manhood's deed !"
Beneath an ancient oak he lay ;
More years than man can count, they say,
On the verge of the dim and solemn wood,
Through sunshine and storm, that oak had stood.
Many a loving, laughing sprite,
Tended the branches by day and by night;
And the leaves of its age were as fresh and as green
As the leaves of its early youth had been.
Pure of thought should the mortal be
Who sleeps beneath the Haunted Tree;
That night the minstrel laid him down
Ere his brow relaxed its sullen frown;
And Slumber had bound its eyelids fast,
Ere the evil wish from his soul had passed.
And a song on the sleeper's ear descended,
A song it was pain to hear, and pleasure,
So strangely wrath and love were blended
In every tone of the mystic measure.
“I know thee, child of earth ;
The morning of thy birth
In through the lattice did my chariot glide ;
I saw thy father weep
Over thy first wild sleep,
I rocked thy cradle when thy mother died.
“And I have seen thee gaze
Upon these birks and braes,
Which are my kingdoms, with irreverent scorn;
And heard thee pour reproof
Upon the vine-clad roof,
Beneath whose peaceful shelter thou wert born.
“I bind thee in the snare
Of thine unholy prayer;
I seal thy forehead with a viewless seal :
I give into thine hand
The buckler and the brand,
And clasp the golden spur upon thy heel.
“When thou hast made thee wise
In the sad lore of sighs,
When the world's visions fail thee and forsake,
Return, return to me,
And to my haunted tree; The charm hath bound thee now; Sir Knight, awake !"
Sir Isumbras, in doubt and dread,
From his feverish sleep awoke,
And started up from his grassy bed
Under the ancient oak.
And he called the page who held his spear,
And, “Tell me, boy,” quoth he,
“How long have I been slumbering here,
Beneath the greenwood tree ?”—
“ Ere thou didst sleep, I chanced to throw
A stone into the rill ;
And the ripple that disturbed its flow
Is on its surface still;
Ere thou didst sleep, thou bad'st me sing
King Arthur's favorite lay;
And the first echo of the string
Has hardly died away.”
“ How strange is sleep!” the young knight said,
As he clasped the helm upon his head,
And, mounting again his courser black,
To his gloomy tower rode slowly back :
“How strange is sleep! when his dark spell lies
On the drowsy lids of human eyes,
The years of a life will float along
In the compass of a page's song.
Methought I lived in a pleasant vale,
The haunt of the lark and the nightingale,
Where the summer rose had a brighter hue,
And the noon-day sky a clearer blue,
And the spirit of man in age and youth
A fonder love, and a firmer truth.
And I lived on, a fair-haired boy,
In that sweet vale of tranquil joy ;
Until at last my vain caprice
Grew weary of its bliss and peace. And one there was, most dear and fair, Of all that smiled around me thereA gentle maid, with a cloudless face, And a form so full of fairy grace; Who, when I turned with scornful spleen From the feast in the bower, or the dance on the green, Would humor all my wayward will And love me and forgive me still. Even now, methinks, her smile of light Is there before me, mild and bright; And I hear her voice of fond reproof, Between the beats of my palfrey's hoof. 'T is idle all: but I could weep; Alas!" said the knight, “ how strange is sleep!"
He struck with his spear the brazen plate
That hung before the castle gate;
The torch threw high its waves of flame
As forth the watchful menials came;
They lighted the way to the banquet hall,
They hung the shield upon the wall,
They spread the board, and they filled the bowl,
And the phantoms passed from his troubled soul.
Sir Isumbras was ever found
Where blows were struck for glory;
There sate not at the Table Round
A knight more famed in story :
The king on his throne would turn about
To see his courser prancing;
And, when Sir Launcelot was out,
The queen would praise his dancing;
He quite wore out his father's spurs,
Performing valor's duties-
Destroying mighty sorcerers,
Avenging injured beauties,
And crossing many a trackless sand,
And rescuing people's daughters
From dragons that infest the land,
And whales that walk the waters.
He throttled lions by the score,
And giants by the dozen;
And, for his skill in lettered lore,
They called him “Merlin's Cousin."