Page images

“My prayer is heard! Helen! Life's cord is cut by God's own hand! May He preserve my country, and — O! trust from my youth!”

He stopped — he fell; and with the shock, the hastily erected scaffold shook to its foundation. The pause was dreadful.

The executioner approached the prostrate chief. Helen was still locked close in his arms. The man stooped to raise his victim, but the attempt was beyond his strength. In vain he called on him — to Helen — to separate, and cease from delaying the execution of the law; no voice replied, no motion answered his loud remonstrance. Gloucester, with an agitation which hardly allowed him power to speak or move, remembered the words of Wallace, “ That the rope of Edward would never sully his animate body!” and, bending to his friend, he spoke; but all was silent there. He raised the chieftain's head, and, looking on his face, found indeed the indisputable stamp of death. “There,” cried he, in a burst of grief, and letting it fall again upon the insensible bosom of Helen — "there broke the noblest heart that ever beat in the breast of man!”

The priests, the executioners, crowded round him at this declaration. But, while giving a command in a low tone to the warden, he took the motionless Helen in his arms, and leaving the astonished group round the noble dead, carried her from the scaffold back into the Tower.



PRAED, WINTHROP MACKWORTH, an English poet; born at London, July 26, 1802; died there, July 15, 1839. He was educated at Eton and at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he won many prizes for Greek odes and epigrams, and for clever verses in English, and was chief contributor to the “Etonian," a monthly paper. He was called to the bar in 1829, and in 1830 was returned to Parliament. His poetical works were written rather for amusement than as serious efforts. A complete edition of them was issued in 1864, edited by his sister, Lady Young, with a Memoir by Derwent Coleridge. Praed wrote many charades which are among the cleverest in our language.

The abbot arose, and closed his book,

And donned his sandal shoon,
And wandered forth, alone, to look

Upon the summer moon:
A starlight sky was o'er his head,

A quiet breeze around;
And the flowers a thrilling fragrance shed,

And the waves a soothing sound:
It was not an hour, nor a scene, for aught

But love and calm delight;
Yet the holy man had a cloud of thought

On his wrinkled brow that night.
He gazed on the river that gurgled by,

But he thought not of the reeds:
He clasped his gilded rosary,

But he did not tell the beads;
If he looked to the heaven, 't was not to invoke

The Spirit that dwelleth there;
If he opened his lips, the words they spoke

Had never the tone of prayer.
A pious priest might the abbot seem,

He had swayed the crosier well;
But what was the theme of the abbot's dream,

The abbot were loath to tell.

Companionless, for a mile or more,
He traced the windings of the shore.
Oh, beauteous is that river still,
As it winds by many a sloping hill,
And many a dim o'erarching grove,
And many a flat and sunny cove,
And terraced lawns, whose bright arcades
The honeysuckle sweetly shades,
And rocks, whose very crags seemed bowers,
So gay they are with grass and flowers!
But the abbot was thinking of scenery,

About as much in sooth,
As a lover thinks of constancy,

Or ap advocate of truth.
He did not mark how the skies in wrath

Grew dark above his head;
He did not mark how the mossy path

Grew damp beneath his tread;
And nearer he came, and still more near,

To a pool, in whose recess
The water had slept for many a year,

Unchanged and motionless;
From the river stream it spread away

The space of a half a rood;
The surface had the hue of clay

And the scent of human blood;
The trees and the herbs that round it grew

Were venomous and foul;
And the birds that through the bushes flew

Were the vulture and the owl;
The water was as dark and rank

As ever a Company pumped ; And the perch, that was netted and laid on the bank,

Grew rotten while it jumped:
And bold was he who thither came

At midnight, man or boy;
For the place was cursed with an evil name,

And that name was The Devil's Decoy!”
The abbot was weary as abbot could be,
And he sat down to rest on the stump of a tree,
When suddenly rose a dismal tone
Was it a song, or was it a moan ?

" Oh, oh! Oh, oh!
Above, below!

Lightly and brightly they glide and go;
The hungry and keen on the top are leaping,
The lazy and fat in the depths are sleeping;
Fishing is fine when the pool is muddy,
Broiling is rich when the coals are ruddy!”
In a monstrous fright, by the murky light,
He looked to the left and he looked to the right,
And what was the vision close before him,
That flung such a sudden stupor o'er him?
'T was a sight to make the hair uprise,

And the life-blood colder run :
The startled priest struck both his thighs,

And the abbey clock struck one!
All alone, by the side of the pool,
A tall man sat on a three-legged stool,
Kicking his heels on the dewy sod,
And putting in order his reel and rod;
Red were the rags his shoulders wore,
And a high red cap on his head he bore;
His arms and his legs were long and bare;
And two or three locks of long red hair
Were tossing about his scraggy neck,
Like a tattered flag o’er a splitting wreck.
It might be Time, or it might be trouble,
Had bent that stout back nearly double –
Sunk in their deep and hollow sockets
That blazing couple of Congreve rockets,
And shrunk and shrivelled that tawny skin,
Till it hardly covered the bones within.
The line the abbot saw him throw
Had been fashioned and formed long ages ago,
And the hands that worked his foreign vest
Long ages ago had gone to their rest:
You would have sworn, as you looked on them,
He had fished in the flood with Ham and Shem!
There was turning of keys, and creaking of locks,
As he took forth a bait from his iron box.
Minnow or gentle, worm or fly –
It seemed not such to the abbot's eye;
Gayly it glittered with jewel and gem,
And its shape was the shape of a diadem.
It was fastened a gleaming hook about,
By a chain within and a chain without;
The fisherman gave it a kick and a spin,
And the water fizzed as it tumbled in!

« PreviousContinue »