Page images
PDF

Indignantly he blew his nose,

And overturned a flagon. And “Away," quoth he, “with the canting priest, Who comes uncalled to a midnight feast, And breathes through a helmet his holy benison, To sour my hock, and spoil my venison !" That moment all the lights went out; And they dragged him forth, that rabble rout, With oath, and threat, and foul scurrility, And every sort of incivility. They barred the gates; and the peal of laughter, Sudden and shrill, that followed after, Died off into a dismal tone, Like a parting spirit's painful moan. “I wish,” said Rudolph, as he stood On foot in the deep and silent wood; “I wish, good Roland, rack and stable May be kinder to-night than their master's table !'

By this the storm had fleeted by ;

And the moon with a quiet smile looked out
From the glowing arch of a cloudless sky,

Flinging her silvery beams about
On rock, tree, wave, and gladdening all

With just as miscellaneous bounty
As Isabel's, whose sweet smiles fall

In half-an-hour on half the county.
Less wild Sir Rudolph's pathway seemed,

As he turned from that discourteous tower.
Small spots of verdure gaily gleamed

On either side ; and many a flower, Lily, and violet, and heart's-ease,

Grew by the way, a fragrant border ; And the tangled bows of the hoary trees

Were twined in picturesque disorder :

And there came from the grove, and there came

from the hill The loveliest sounds he had ever heard, The cheerful voice of the dancing rill,

And the sad sad song of the lonely bird. And at last he stared with wondering eyes,

As well he might, on a large pavilion : 'Twas clothed with stuffs of a hundred dyes,

Blue, purple, orange, pink, vermilion ; And there were quaint devices traced

All round in the Saracenic manner; And the top, which gleamed like gold, was graced

With the drooping folds of a silken banner ; And on the poles, in silent pride,

There sat small doves of white enamel ; And the veil from the entrance was drawn aside,

And flung on the humps of a silver camel. In short it was the sweetest thing

For a weary youth in a wood to light on; And finer far than what a King

Built up, to prove his taste, at Brighton.

The gilded gate was all unbarred ;
And, close beside it, for a guard,
There lay two dwarfs with monstrous noses,
Both fast asleep upon some roses.
Sir Rudolph entered ; rich and bright
Was all that met his ravished sight;
Soft tapestries from far countries brought,
Rare cabinets with gems inwrought,
White vases of the finest mould,
And mirrors set in burnished gold.
Upon a couch a greyhound slumbered ;
And a small table was encumbered

With paintings, and an ivory lute,
And sweetmeats, and delicious fruit.
Sir Rudolph lost no time in praising ;
For he, I should have said, was gazing,
In attitude extremely tragic,
Upon a sight of stranger magic ;
A sight, which, seen at such a season,
Might well astonish Mistress Reason,
And scare Dame Wisdom from her fences
Of rules and maxims, moods and tenses.

Beneath a crimson canopy,

A lady, passing fair, was lying ; Deep sleep was on her gentle eye,

And in her slumber she was sighing Bewitching sighs, such sighs as say

Beneath the moonlight, to a lover, Things which the coward tongue by day

Would not, for all the world, discover
She lay like a shape of sculptured stone,
So pale, so tranquil :-she had thrown,

For the warm evening's sultriness,
The bordered coverlet aside ;
And nothing was there to deck or hide

The glory of her loveliness,
But a scarf of gauze so light and thin
You might see beneath the dazzling skin,
And watch the purple streamlets go
Through the valleys of white and stainless snow,

Or here and there a wayward tress, Which wandered out with vast assurance From the pearls that kept the rest in durance, And fluttered about, as if 'twould try To lure a zephyr from the sky.

“Bertha !” large drops of anguish came
On Rudolph's brow, as he breathed that rame-
Oh, fair and false one, wake, and fear!
I, the betrayed, the scorned, am here."
The eye moved not from its dull eclipse,
The voice came not from the fast-shut lips;
No matter ! well that gazer knew
The tone of bliss, and the eyes of blue,

Sir Rudolph hid his burning face
With both his hands, for a minute's space,
And all his frame, in awful fashion,
Was shaken by some sudden passion.
What guilty fancies o'er him ran?

Oh ! pity will be slow to guess them;
And never, save to the holy man,

Did good Sir Rudolph e'er confess them. But soon his spirit you might deem Came forth from the shade of the fearful dream; His cheek, though pale, was calm again, And he spoke in peace, though he spoke in pain :

“Not mine! not mine! now Mary, mother,
Aid me the sinful hope to smother!
Not mine, not mine !-I have loved thee long,
Thou hast quitted me with grief and wrong ;
But pure the heart of a knight should be-
Sleep on, sleep on! thou art safe for me :
Yet shalt thou know by a certain sign
Whose lips have been so near to thine,
Whose eyes have looked upon thy sleep,
And turned away, and longed to weep,
Whose heart-mourn-madden as it will
Has spared thee, and adored thee still ! ” .

His purple mantle, rich and wide,
From his neck the trembling youth untied,

And flung it o'er those dangerous charms,

The swelling neck, and the rounded arms. Once more he looked, once more he sighed; And away, away from the perilous tent,

Swift as the rush of an eagle's wing,

Or the flight of a shaft from Tartar string, Into the wood Sir Rudolph went: Not with more joy the schoolboys run To the gay green fields, when their task is done ;Not with more haste the members fly, When Hume has caught the Speaker's eye.

At last the daylight came; and then
A score or two of serving men,
Supposing that some sad disaster
Had happened to their lord and master,
Went out into the wood, and found him
Unhorsed, and with no mantle round him.
Ere he could tell his tale romantic,
The leech pronounced him clearly frantic,
So ordered him at once to bed,
And clapped a blister on his head.

Within the sound of the Castle clock
There stands a huge and rugged rock;
And I have heard the peasants say,
That the grieving groom at noon that day
Found gallant Roland cold and stiff,
At the base of the black and beetling cliff.

Beside the rock there is an oak,
Tall, blasted by the thunder-stroke ;

« PreviousContinue »