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And I have heard the peasants say,
That there Sir Rudolph's mantle lay,
And coiled in many a deadly wreath,
A venomous serpent slept beneath.
THE LEGEND OF THE HAUNTED TREE.
“Deep is the bliss of the belted Knight,
When he kisses at dawn the silken glove, And goes, in his glittering armour dight,
To shiver a lance for his lady-love!
Lightly he couches the beaming spear ;
His mistress sits with her maidens by, Watching the speed of his swift career,
With a whispered prayer, and a murmured sigh.
Far from me is the gazing throng,
The blazoned shield, and the nodding plume ; Nothing is mine but a worthless song,
A joyless life, and a nameless tomb."
“Nay, dearest Wilfred, lay like this,
On such an eve, is much amiss ;
Our mirth beneath the new May moon
Should echoed be by livelier tune.
What need to thee of mail and crest,
Or foot in stirrup, spear in rest ?
Over far mountains and deep seas,
Earth hath no fairer fields than these ;
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,
In the crevice of the cold rock dwell,
Till their shape is the shape of their dungeon 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 same !
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 dun 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 his eyelids fast,
Ere the evil wish from his soul had passed.
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 note 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
O'er 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 favourite 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 there,
A gentle maid, with a cloudless face,
And a form so full of fairy grace,
Who, when I turned with scornful spleen,
From feast in bower, or dance on green,
Would humour 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.
'Tis idle all : but I could weep;
Alas !” said the Knight, “how strange is sleep!”.
He struck with his spear the brazen plate
That gleamed 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;