Prison Rhymes, etc.
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THE POETICAL WORKS

OF

THOMAS COOPER.


LONDON:
HODDER AND STOUGHTON,
27 PATERNOSTER ROW.
_________

1877.



CONTENTS
_________

 

PAGE

PRISON RHYMES:

 

Chartist Chaunt

283.

Chartist Song

285.

Chartist Song

287.

The Woodman's Song

289.

Old Man's Song

290.

EARLY PIECES:

 

To Lincoln Cathedral

439.

What are Dreams?

440.

Love's Challenge

442.

To ——

443.

Sir Raymond and the False Palmer

444.

The Gosherd of Croyland

449.

The Swineherd of Stow

451.

The Daughter of Plantagenet

453.

_________

 


PRISON RHYMES
_________

 
CHARTIST CHAUNTS.

 

TRUTH is growing—hearts are glowing
    With the flame of Liberty:
Light is breaking—Thrones are quaking—
    Hark!—the trumpet of the Free!
Long, in lowly whispers breathing.
    Freedom wandered drearily—
Still, in faith, her laurel wreathing
    For the day when there should be
    Freemen shouting—'Victory!'

Now, she seeketh him that speaketh
    Fearlessly of lawless might;
And she speedeth him that leadeth
    Brethren on to win the Right.
Soon, the slave shall cease to sorrow—
    Cease to toil in agony;
Yea, the cry may swell to-morrow
    Over land and over sea—
    'Brethren, shout—ye all are free!'

Freedom bringeth joy that singeth
    All day long and never tires:
No more sadness—all is gladness
    In the hearts that she inspires:
For, she breathes a soft compassion
    Where the tyrant kindled rage;
And she saith to every nation—
    'Brethren, cease wild war to wage:
    Earth is your blest heritage.'

Though kings render their defender
    Titles, gold, and splendours gay—
Lo, thy glory—warrior gory—
    Like a dream shall fade away!
Gentle Peace her balm of healing
    On the bleeding world shall pour;
Brethren, love for brethren feeling,
    Shall proclaim, from shore to shore—
    'Shout—the sword shall slay no more!'

 

_____________________

 
CHARTIST SONG.

AIRThe Brave Old Oak.

 

A SONG for the Free—the brave and the free—
    Who feareth no tyrant's frown:
Who scorneth to bow, in obeisance low,
    To mitre or to crown:
Who owneth no lord with crosier or sword,
    And bendeth to Right alone;
Where'er he may dwell, his worth men shall tell,
    When a thousand years are gone!

For Tyler of old, a heart-chorus bold
    Let Labour's children sing!
For the smith with the soul that disdain'd base control,
    Nor trembled before a king;
For the heart that was brave, though pierced by a knave
    Ere victory for Right was won—
They'll tell his fair fame, and cheer his blythe name,
    When a thousand years are gone!

For the high foe of Wrong, great Hampden, a song—
    The fearless and the sage!
Who, at king-craft's frown, the gauntlet threw down,
    And dared the tyrant's rage;
Who away the scabbard threw, when the battle blade he
            drew,
    And with gallant heart led on!
How he bravely fell, our children shall tell,
    When a thousand years are gone!

For the mountain child of Scotia wild—
    For noble Wallace a strain!
O'er the Border ground let the chaunt resound:
    It will not be heard in vain.
For the Scot will awake, and the theme uptake
    Of deeds by the patriot done:—
They'll hold his name dear, nor refuse it a tear,
    When a thousand years are gone!

An anthem we'll swell for bold William Tell,
    The peasant of soul so grand!
Who fearlessly broke haughty Gesler's yoke,
    And set free his fatherland:
His deeds shall be sung, with blythesome tongue,
    By maiden, sire, and son,
Where the eagles climb o'er the Alps sublime;
    When a thousand years are gone.

For our Charter a song!   It tarrieth long—
    But we will not despair;
For, though Death's dark doom upon us all may come
    Ere we the blessing share,—
Our happy children they shall see the happy day
    When Freedom's boon is won;
And our Charter shall be the boast of the Free,
    When a thousand years are gone!

 

_____________________

 
CHARTIST SONG.

AIR —Canadian Boat Song.

 

THE time shall come when Wrong shall end,
When peasant to peer no more shall bend—
When the lordly Few shall lose their sway,
And the Many no more their frown obey.
        Toil, brothers, toil, till the work is done—
        Till the struggle is o'er, and the Charter's won!

The time shall come when the artisan
Shall homage no more the titled man—
When the moiling men who delve the mine
By Mammon's decree no more shall pine.
        Toil, brothers, toil, till the work is done—
        Till the struggle is o'er and the Charter's won!

The time shall come when the weavers' band
Shall hunger no more, in their fatherland—
When the factory child can sleep till day,
And smile while it dreams of sport and play.
        Toil, brothers, toil, till the work is done—
        Till the struggle is o'er, and the Charter's won!

The time shall come when Man shall hold
His brother more dear than sordid gold—
When the Negro's stain his freeborn mind
Shall sever no more from human-kind.
        Toil, brothers, toil, till the world is free—
        Till justice and Love hold jubilee!

The time shall come when kingly crown
And mitre for toys of the Past are shown—
When the Fierce and False alike shall fall,
And Mercy and Truth encircle all.
        Toil, brothers, toil, till the world is free—
        Till Mercy and Truth hold jubilee!

The time shall come when earth shall be
A garden of joy, from sea to sea—
When the slaughterous sword is drawn no more,
And goodness exults from shore to shore.
        Toil, brothers, toil, till the world is free—
        Till goodness shall hold high jubilee!

 

_____________________

 
THE WOODMAN'S SONG.

 

I WOULD not be a crownèd king,
    For all his gaudy gear;
I would not be that pampered thing,
    His gew-gaw gold to wear:
But I would be where I can sing
    Right merrily, all the year;
            Where forest treen,
            All gay and green,
    Full blythely do me cheer.

I would not be a gentleman,
    For all his hawks and hounds,—
For fear the hungry poor should ban
    My halls and wide-parked grounds:
But I would be a merry man,
    Among the wild wood sounds,—
            Where free birds sing,
            And echoes ring
    While my axe from the oak rebounds.

I would not be a shaven priest,
    For all his sloth-won tythe:
But while to me this breath is leased,
    And these old limbs are lithe,—
Ere Death hath marked me for his feast,
    And felled me with his scythe,—
            I'll troll my song,
            The leaves among,
    All in the forest blythe.

 

_____________________

 
THE OLD MAN'S SONG.

 

O CHOOSE thou the maid with the gentle blue eye,
That speaketh so softly, and looketh so shy;
                    Who weepeth for pity,
                    To hear a love ditty,
    And marketh the end with a sigh.

If thou weddest a maid with a bold, staring look,
Who babbleth as loud as the rain-swollen brook,
                    Each day for the morrow
                    Will nurture more sorrow,—
    Each sun paint thy shadow a-crook.

The maid that is gentle will make a kind wife;
The magpie that prateth will stir thee to strife:
                    'Twere better to tarry,
                    Unless thou canst marry
    To sweeten the bitters of life!

 

_____________________


EARLY PIECES
_____

 
TO LINCOLN CATHEDRAL.

 

    HAIL, awful pile!   Child of Time's midnight age,
Now Mother in its youth renewed!   The tomb
Of regal priests who banqueted on joys
Wrung from the peasants' woes: disciples strange
Of Him whose coat was woven without a seam
Throughout; who had not where to lay His head!
    Great sepulchre of haughty gloom and grandeur—
Bestriding earth, like as thy shrinèd dead,
While living, did bestride the human mind—
Thy veritable being, which thy frown
Stamps on our consciousness so solemnly,
Would seem, like shapes in fables of thy times,
A phantom too unreal for our belief,
Were we not witnesses that oft the mind,
Disordered and oppressed by strong disease,
Creates, in throes of thought, its images
Of gorgeous dress and stature giantlike—
Dwarfing the voluntary portraitures
Sketched by Thought's pencil in the hours of health.

    Roman Ermine Street, 1829.

 

_____________________

 
WHAT ARE DREAMS?

 

    ARE dreams a portion of our active life?
Are they the living movements of the soul,
Which grows more wakeful while the body sleeps;
And, unrepressed by drear reality,
Its playful vigil keeps, or weaves its web
Of self-entangling sorrow—picturing,
In deeper shades or wilder ecstasies,
The joys or troubles of our waking hours?

    Or, are we merely passive in our sleep?
Do 'spiritual creatures' visit us,
And hold more ready converse with the mind—
Unshackled, whiles, by life corporeal—
Forewarning it, by emblematic signs,
Of coming grief or pleasure?—
                                                       We but know,
As yet, in part; but, when eternity
Shall dawn—when the strange noose is loosed
Which ties the soul to matter—we shall know
As we are known.   The freed inhabitant
Of this our mortal tenement, shall then
Its own mysterious secrets learn; and, skilled
Its past experience to trace, 'twill live,
In thought, its life terrestrial o'er again.
Yea, then, shall spiritual essences
Be our companions in celestial bliss,
Or, sharers, with us, of sin's penalties.

    And, if to speak of past acquaintanceship
Be ours, with spirits perverse, how terrible
That converse!   But, if angels blest shall pour
Their sweet communications in our ear,
And tell of pleasing whispers to the soul
In far departed hours of earthly sleep—
How rapturous, to hail eternally
In heaven, that brotherhood of spirits pure,
Our secret visitants of love on earth!


Gainsborough, 1830.

 

_____________________

 
LOVE'S CHALLENGE.

 

WHAT meant that glancing of thine eye,
That softly hushed, yet struggling sigh?
    Hast thou a thought of woe or weal,
    Which breathed, my bosom would not feel?
    Why shouldst thou, then, that thought conceal,
Or hide it from my mind, Love?

Didst thou e'er breathe a sigh to me,
And I not breathe as deep to thee?
    Or hast thou whispered in mine ear
    A word of sorrow or of fear,—
    Or have I seen thee shed a tear,—
And looked a thought unkind, Love?

Did e'er a gleam of Love's sweet ray
Across thy beaming countenance play,—
    Or joy its seriousness beguile,
    And o'er it cast a radiant smile,—
    And mine with kindred joy, the while,
Not glow as bright as thine, Love?

Why wouldst thou, then, that something seek
To hide within thy breast,—nor speak,
    Its load of doubt, of grief, or fear,
    Of joy, or sorrow, to mine ear,—
    Assured this heart would gladly bear
A burthen borne by thine, Love?


Gainsborough, 1832.

 

_____________________

 
TO—— .

 

OH, cleave more closely to my breast,
    And I will closer cleave to thine:
Thy bosom is my sweetest rest—
    Oh, rest thy weary head on mine!

Let storms around us rudely beat,
    And on us pour the withering blast:
If we the storm together meet,
    'Twill sweeter be, when overpast.

Let pleasures fade, and want assail—
    Yet nought of murmuring or of care,
Within our bosom shall prevail—
    For Love shall whisper quiet there.

Then cleave more closely to my breast,
    And I will closer cleave to thine:
Thy bosom is my sweetest rest—
    Oh, rest thy weary head on mine!


Gainsborough, 1832.

 

_____________________

 
SIR RAYMOND AND THE FALSE PALMER.*

 

SIR Raymond de Clifford, a gallant band
Hath gathered to fight in the Holy Land;
And his lady's heart is sinking in sorrow,—
For the knight and his lances depart on the morrow!

"Oh, wherefore, noble Raymond, tell,"—
His lovely ladye weeping said,—
"With lonely sorrow must I dwell,
    "When but three bridal moons have fled?"

Sir Raymond kissed her pale, pale cheek,
    And strove, with a warrior's pride,
While an answer of love he essayed to speak,
    His flooding tears to hide.

But an image rose in his heated brain,
That shook his heart with vengeful pain,
And anger flashed in his rolling eye,
While his ladye looked on him tremblingly.

Yet he answered not in wrathful haste,—
But clasped his bride to his manly breast;
And with words of tender yet stately dress,
Thus strove to banish her heart's distress:—

"De Burgh hath enrolled him with Philip of France;—
"Baron Hubert,—who challenged De Clifford's lance,
"And made him the scoff of the burgher swine,
"When he paid his vows at the Virgin's shrine.

"Oh, ask me not, love, to tarry in shame,—
"Lest 'craven' be added to Raymond's name!
"To Palestine hastens my mortal foe,—
"And I with our Lion's Heart will go!

"Nay, Gertrude, repeat not thy sorrowing tale!
"Behold in my casque the scallop-shell,—
"And see on my shoulder the Holy Rood—
"The pledge of my emprize—bedyed in blood!

"Thou wouldst not, love, I should be forsworn,
"Nor the stain on my honour be tamely borne:
"Do thou to the saints, each passing day,
"For Raymond and royal Richard pray,—

"While they rush to the rescue, for God's dear Son;
    "And soon, for thy Raymond, the conqueror's meed,—
    "By the skill of this arm, and the strength of my steed,—
"From the Paynim swart shall be nobly won.

"Thou shalt not long for De Clifford mourn,
"Ere he to thy bosom of love return;
"When blind to the lure of the red-cross bright,
"He will bask, for life, in thy beauty's light!"

The morn in the radiant east arose:—
    The Red-cross Knight hath spurred his steed
    That courseth as swift as a falcon's speed:—
To the salt-sea shore Sir Raymond goes.

Soon, the sea he hath crossed, to Palestine;
And there his heart doth chafe and pine,—
For Hubert de Burgh is not in that land:
He loitereth in France, with Philip's band.

But De Clifford will never a recreant turn,
While the knightly badge on his arm is borne;
And long, beneath the Syrian sun,
He fasted and fought, and glory won.

His Gertrude, alas! like a widow pines;
And though on her castle the bright sun shines,
She sees not its beams,—but in loneliness prays,
Through the live-long hours of her weeping days.

Twelve moons have waned, and the morn is come
When, a year before, from his meed-won home
Sir Raymond went:—At the castle gate
A reverend Palmer now doth wait.

He saith he hath words for the ladye's ear;
And he telleth, in accents dread and drear,
Of De Clifford's death in the Holy Land,
At Richard's side, by a Saracen's hand.

And he gave to the ladye, when thus he had spoken,—
Of Sir Raymond's fall a deathly token:
'Twas a lock of his hair all stained with blood,
Entwined on a splinter of Holy Rood.—

Then the Palmer in haste from the castle sped;
    And from gloomy morn to weary night,
    Lorn Gertrude, in her widowed plight,
Weepeth and waileth the knightly dead.—

Three moons have waned, and the Palmer, again,
By Gertrude stands, and smileth fain;
Nor of haste, nor of death, speaks the Palmer, now;
Nor doth sadness or sorrow bedim his brow.

He softly sits by the ladye's side,
And vaunteth his deeds of chivalrous pride;
Then lisps, in her secret ear, of things
Which deeply endanger the thrones of kings:

From Philip of France, he saith, he came,
To treat with Prince John, whom she must not name;
And he in fair France hath goodly lands,—
Where his sturdy vassals await his commands.—

The ladye liked her gallant guest,—
For he kenned the themes that pleased her best;
And his tongue in silken measures skilled,
With goodly ditties her memory filled.

Thus the Palmer the ladye's ear beguiles,—
Till Gertrude her sorrow exchangeth for smiles;
And when from the castle the Palmer went,
She watched his return from the battlement.—

Another moon doth swell and wane;
    But how slowly it waneth!
    How her heart now paineth
For sight of the Palmer again!

But the Palmer comes, and her lightsome heart
    Derideth pain and sorrow:
She pledgeth the Palmer, and smirketh smart,
    And saith, "We'll wed to-morrow!"—

The morrow is come, and at break of day,
'Fore the altar, the abbot, in holy array,
Is joining the Palmer's and Gertrude's hands,—
But, in sudden amazement the holy man stands!

For, before the castle, a trumpet's blast
Rings so loud that the Palmer starts aghast;
And, at Gertrude's side, he sinks dismayed,—
Is't with dread of the living, or fear of the dead?

The doors of the chapel were open thrown,
And the beams through the pictured windows shone
On the face of De Clifford, with fury flushed,—
And forth on the Palmer he wildly rushed!

"False Hubert!" he cried; and his knightly sword
Was sheathed in the heart of the fiend-sold lord
With a scream of terror Gertrude fell—
For she knew the pride of Sir Raymond well!

He flew to raise her—but 'twas in vain:
Her spirit its flight in fear had ta'en!—
And Sir Raymond kneels that his soul be shriven,
And the stain of this deed be by grace forgiven:—

But ere the Abbot his grace can dole,
    De Clifford's truthful heart is breaking,—
    And his soul, also, its flight is taking!—
Christ, speed it to a heavenly goal!—
Oh, pray for the peace of Sir Raymond's soul!


Gainsborough, 1832.

             *Palmer: a pilgrim privileged to carry a palm-staff.

 

_____________________

 
THE GOSHERD OF CROYLAND.

 

TIS a tale of merry Lincolnshire
    I've heard my grannam tell;
And I'll tell it to you, my masters, here,
    An it likes you all, full well.

A Gosherd of Croyland fen one day
    Awoke, in haste, from slumber;
And on counting his geese, to his sad dismay,
    He found there lacked one of the number.

O the Gosherd looked west, and he looked east,
    And he looked before and behind him;
And his eye from north to south he cast
    For the gander—but couldn't find him!

So the Gosherd he drave his geese to the cote,
    And began, forthwith, to wander
Over the marish so wild and remote,
    In search for the old stray gander.

O the Gosherd he wandered till twilight gray
    Was throwing its mists around him;
But the gander seemed farther and farther astray—
    For the Gosherd had not yet found him.

So the Gosherd, foredeeming his search in vain,
    Resolved no farther to wander;
But to Croyland he turned him, in dudgeon, again
    Sore fretting at heart for the gander.

Thus he footed the fens so dreary and dern,
    While his brain, like the sky, was darkening;
And, with dread, to the scream of the startled hern
    And the bittern's boom, he was hearkening.

But when the Gosherd the churchyard reached,—
    Forefearing the dead would be waking,—
Like a craven upon the sward he stretched,
    And could travel no farther for quaking!

And there the Gosherd lay through the night,
    Not daring to rise and go further:
For, in sooth, the Gosherd beheld a sight
    That frighted him more than murther!

From the old church clock the midnight hour
    In hollow tones was pealing,
When a slim white ghost to the church porch door
    Seemed up the footpath stealing!

Stark staring upon the sward lay the clown,
    And his heart went "pitter-patter,"—
Till the ghost in the clay-cold grave sunk down,—
    When he felt in a twitter-twatter!

Soon—stretching aloft its long white arms—
    From the grave the ghost was peeping!
Cried the Gosherd, "Our Lady defend me from harms,
    "And Saint Guthlacke have me in his keeping!"

The white ghost hissed!—the Gosherd swooned!
    In the morn,—on the truth 'tis no slander,—
Near the church porch door a new grave he found,
    And, therein, the white ghost—his stray gander!


Lincoln, 1835,

             * Gosherd: one who takes care of geese.

 

_____________________

 
THE SWINEHERD OF STOW.

 

I SING of a swineherd, in Lindsey, so bold,
Who tendeth his flock in the wide forest-fold:
He sheareth no wool from his snouted sheep:
He soweth no corn, and none he doth reap;
Yet the swineherd no lack of good living doth know
                Come jollily trowl
                The brown round bowl,
        Like the jovial swineherd of Stow!

He hedgeth no meadows to fatten his swine:
He renteth no joist for his snorting kine:
They rove through the forest, and browse on the mast,—
Yet, he lifteth his horn, and bloweth a blast,
And they come at his call, blow he high, blow he low!—
                Come, jollily trowl
                The brown round bowl,
        And drink to the swineherd of Stow!

He shunneth the heat 'mong the fern-stalks green,—
Or dreameth of elves 'neath the forest treen:
He wrappeth him up when the oak leaves sere
And the acorns fall, at the wane of the year;
And he tippleth at Yule, by the log's cheery glow.—
                Come, jollily trowl
                The brown round bowl,
        And pledge the bold swineherd of Stow!

The bishop he passeth the swineherd in scorn,—
Yet, to mass wends the swineherd at Candlemas morn:
And he offereth his horn, at our Lady's hymn,
With bright silver pennies filled up to the brim:—
Saith the bishop, "A very good fellow, I trow!"—
                Come, jollily trowl
                The brown round bowl,
        And honour the swineherd of Stow!

And now the brave swineherd, in stone, ye may spy,
Holding his horn, on the Minster so high!—
But the swineherd he laugheth, and cracketh his joke,
With his pig-boys that vittle beneath the old oak,—
Saying, "Had I no pennies, they'd make me no show!"—
                Come, jollily trowl
                The brown round bowl,
        And laugh with the swineherd of Stow!


Lincoln, 1835.

 

_____________________

 
THE DAUGHTER OF PLANTAGENET.

FYTTE THE FYRSTE.

 

    'Tis midnight, and the broad full moon
    Pours on the earth her silver noon;
    Sheeted in white, like spectres of fear,
    Their ghostly forms the towers uprear;
And their long dark shadows behind them are cast,
Like the frown of the cloud when the lightning hath past.

    The warder sleeps on the battlement,
    And there is not a breeze to curl the Trent;
    The leaf is at rest, and the owl is mute—
    But list! awaked is the woodland lute:
The nightingale warbles her omen sweet
On the hour when the ladye her lover shall meet.

    She waves her hand from the loophole high,
    And watcheth, with many a struggling sigh,
    And hearkeneth in doubt, and paleth with fear,—
    Yet tremblingly trusts her true knight is near;—
And there skims o'er the river—or doth her heart doat?—
As with wing of the night-hawk—her lover's brave boat.

    His noble form hath attained the strand,
    And she waves again her small white hand:
    And breathing to heaven, in haste, a prayer.
    Softly glides down the lonely stair;
And there stands by the portal, all watchful and still,
Her own faithful damsel awaiting her will.

    The midnight lamp gleams dull and pale,—
    The maidens twain are weak and frail,—
    But Love doth aid his votaries true,
    While they the massive bolts undo,—
And a moment hath flown, and the warrior knight
Embraceth his love in the meek moonlight.

The knight his love-prayer, tenderly,
    Thus breathed in his fair one's ear
"Oh! wilt thou not, my Agnes, flee?"—
    And, quelling thy maiden fear,
"Away in the fleeting skiff with me,
    "And, for aye, this lone heart cheer?"

"O let not bold Romara seek"—
    Soft answered his ladye-love,—
"A father's doating heart to break,
    "For should I disdainful prove
"Of his high behests, his darling child
"Will thenceforth be counted a thing defiled;
"And the kindling eye of my martial sire
"Be robbed of its pride, and be quenched its fire:
"Nor long would true Romara deem
"The heart of his Agnes beat for him,
"And for him alone—if that heart, he knew,
"To its holiest law could be thus untrue."

His plume-crowned helm the warrior bows
    Low o'er her shoulder fair,
And bursting sighs the grief disclose
    His lips can not declare;
And swiftly glide the tears of love
    Adown the ladye's cheek;—
Their deep commingling sorrows prove
    The love they cannot speak!

    The moon shines on them, as on things
        She loves to robe with gladness,—
    But all her light no radiance brings
        Unto their hearts' dark sadness:
    Forlornly, 'neath her cheerless ray,—
        Bosom to bosom beating,—
    In speechless agony they stay,
        With burning kisses greeting;—
Nor reck they with what speed doth haste
The present hour to join the past.

"Ho! lady Agnes, lady dear!"
    Her fearful damsel cries;
"You reckon not, I deeply fear,
    "How swift the moontide flies!
"The surly warder will awake,
    "The morning dawn, anon,—
"My heart beginneth sore to quake,—
    "I fear we are undone!"

But Love is mightier far, than Fear:
    The ladye hasteth not:
The magnet of her heart is near,
    And peril is forgot!

She clingeth to her knight's brave breast
    Like a lorn turtle-dove,
And 'mid the peril feeleth rest,—
    The full, rapt rest of Love!

"I charge thee, hie thee hence, sir knight!"
    The damsel shrilly cries;
"If this should meet her father's sight,
    "By Heaven! my lady dies."

The warrior rouseth all his pride,
    And looseth his love's caress,—
Yet slowness of heart doth his strength betide
    As he looks on her loveliness:—
But again the damsel their love-dream breaks,—
    And self-reproachingly,
The knight his resolve of its fetters shakes,
    And his spirit now standeth free.

    Then, came the last, absorbing kiss,
        True Love can ne'er forego,—
    That dreamy plenitude of bliss
        Or antepast of woe,—
That seeming child of Heaven, which at its birth
Briefly expires, and proves itself of earth.

The ladye hieth to her couch;—
    And when the morn appears,
The changes of her cheek avouch,
    Full virginly her fears;—
But her doating father can nought discern
    In the hues of the rose and the lily that chase
    Each other across her lovely face,—
Save a sweetness that softens his visage stern.

 

FYTTE THE SECONDE.

 

ROMARA'S skiff is on the Trent,
    And the stream is in its strength,—
For a surge, from its ocean-fountain sent,
    Pervades its giant length:
Roars the hoarse heygre in its course,
Lashing the banks with its wrathful force;
And dolefully echoes the wild-fowl's scream,
As the sallows are swept by the whelming stream
And her callow young are hurled for a meal,
To the gorge of the barbel, the pike, and the eel:
The porpoise heaves 'mid the rolling tide,
And, snorting in mirth, doth merrily ride,—
For he hath forsaken his bed in the sea,
To sup on the salmon, right daintily!

In Romara's breast a tempest raves:
He heeds not the rage of the furrowy waves:
Supremely his hopes and fears are set
On the image of Agnes Plantagenet:
And though from his vision fade Gainsburgh's towers,
And the moon is beclouded, and darkness lours
Yet the eye of his passion oft pierceth the gloom,
And beholds his Beloved in her virgin bloom—
    Kneeling before the holy Rood,—
        All clasped her hands,—
    Beseeching the saints and angels good
        That their watchful bands
Her knight may preserve from a watery tomb!

What deathful scream rends Romara's heart?—
    Is it the bittern that, flapping the air,
Doth shriek in madness, and downward dart,
    As if from the bosom of Death she would tear
Her perished brood,—or a shroud would have
By their side, in the depths of their river-grave?

Hark! hark! again!—'tis a human cry,
Like the shriek of a man about to die!
And its desolateness doth fearfully pierce
The billowy boom of the torrent fierce;
        And, swift as a thought
        Glides the warrior's boat
Through the foaming surge to the river's bank,
Where, lo!—by a branch of the osiers dank,
        Clingeth one in agony
        Uttering that doleful cry;

His silvery head of age upborne
    Appeared above the wave;
So nearly was his strength outworn,
    That all too late to save
Had been the knight, if another billow
    Its force on his fainting frame had bent,—
Nay, his feeble grasp by the drooping willow
    The beat of a pulse might have fatally spent.

With eager pounce did Romara take
    From the yawning wave its prey,—
But nought to his deliverer spake
    The man with the head of gray:
And the warrior stripped, with needful haste,
The helpless one of his drenched vest,
And wrapt his own warm mantle round
The chill one in his deathly swound.

The sea-born strength of the stream is spent,
    And Romara's boat outstrips its speed,—
For his stalwart arm to the oar is bent,
    And swiftly the ebbing waves recede.

Divinely streaketh the morning-star
    With a wavy light the rippling waters;
And the moon looks on from the west, afar,
    And palely smiles, with her waning daughters,
The thin-strown stars, which their vigil keep
Till the orient sun shall awake from sleep.

The sun hath awoke: and in garments of gold
The turrets of Torksey are livingly rolled;
Afar, on Trent's margin, the flowery lea
Exhales her dewy fragrancy;
And gaily carols the matin lark,
As the warrior hastes to moor his bark.

Two menials hasten to the beach,
    For signal none need they;
On the towers they kept a heedful watch
    As the skiff glode on its way:

With silent step and breathless care
The rescued one they softly bear,
And bring him, at their lord's behest,
To a couch of silken pillowed rest.

The serfs could scarce avert their eye
    From his manly form and mien,
As, with closed lids, all reverendly,
    He lay in peace, serene.

And Romara thought, as he gazing leant
    O'er the slumberer's form, that so pure a trace
Of the spirit of Heaven with the earthly blent
    Dwelt only there, and in Agnes' face.

The leech comes forth at the hour of noon,
And saith, that the sick from his deathly swoon
Will awake anon; and Romara's eye,
Uplift, betokens his heartfelt joy;
And again o'er the slumberer's couch he bows
Till, slowly, those peaceful lids unclose,—
When, long, with heavenward-fixèd gaze,
With lowly prayer and grateful praise,
The aged man, from death reprieved,
His bosom of its joy relieved.—

Then did Romara thus address
His gray guest in his reverendness:

    "Now, man of prayer, come tell to me
    "Some spell of thy holy mystery!
    "Some vision hast had of the Virgin bright,—
    "Or message, conveyed from the world of light,
"By the angels of love who in purity stand
"'Fore the throne of our Lord in the heavenly land?

"I hope, when I die, to see them there;
"For I love the angels so holy and fair:
"And often, I trust, my prayer they, greet
"With smiles, when I kneel and kiss their feet
"In the missal, my mother her weeping child gave
"But a day or two ere she was laid in the grave.

    "Sage man of prayer, come tell to me
    "What holy shapes in sleep they see
    "Who love the blest saints and serve them well!
    "I pray thee, sage man, to Romara tell,
"For a guerdon, thy dreams,—sith, to me thou hast said
"No thanks that I rescued thy soul from the dead."

But, when the aged man arose
    And met Romara's wistful eye,—
What accents shall the change disclose
    That marked his visage, fearfully?—
From joy to grief and deepest dole;
    From radiant hope to dark presage
Of future ills beyond control—
    Hath passed the visage of the sage.

"Son of an honoured line, I grieve;"
    Outspake the reverend seer,
"That I no guerdon thee can give
    "But words of woe and fear!—
"Thy sun is setting!—and thy race,
    "In thee, their goodly heir,
"Shall perish, nor a feeble trace
    "Their fated name declare!—
"Thy love is fatal: fatal, too,
    "This act of rescue brave—
"For, him who from destruction drew
    "My life, no arm can save!"

He said,—and took his lonely way
    Far from Romara's towers.—
His fateful end from that sad day
    O'er Torksey's chieftain lowers:
Yet, vainly, in his heart a shrine
    Hope builds for love—with faith;—
Alas! for him with frown malign
    Waiteth the grim king Death!

 

FYTTE THE THYRDE.

 

PLANTAGENET hath dungeons deep
    Beneath his castled halls;—
Plantagenet awakes from sleep
    To count his dungeoned thralls.

Alone, with the torch of blood-red flame,
    The man of blood descends;
And the fettered captives curse his name,
    As through the vaults he wends.—

    His caverns are visited all save one,
The deepest, and direst in gloom,—
    Where his father, doomed by a demon son,
        Abode in a living tomb.—

    "I bring thee bread and water, sire!
        "Brave usury for thy gold!
    "I fear my filial zeal will tire
        "To visit, soon, thy hold!"

Thus spake the fiendish-hearted lord,
    And wildly laughed, in scorn:
Like thunder round the cell each
    By echoing fiends is borne,—
But not a human heart is there
The baron's scorn or hate to fear!

And the captives tell, as he passeth again,—
    That tyrant, in his rage,—
How an angel hath led the aged
    To his heavenly heritage!

The wrathful baron little recked
    That angel was his darling child;
Or knew his dark ambition checked
    By her who oft his rage beguiled.—
    By her on whom he ever smiled:—
This had he known, from that dread hour,
His darling's smile had lost its power,—
And his own hand, without remorse,
Had laid her at his feet a corse!—

Plantagenet's banners in pride are borne
    To the sound of pipe and drum!
And his mailed bands, with the dawn of morn,
    To Romara's walls are come.
"We come not as foes," the herald saith,—
"But we bring plantangenet's shriven faith
"That thou, Romara, in thine arms
"Shalt soon enfold thy true love's charms:
"Let no delay thy joy betide!—
"Thy Agnes soon shall be thy bride!"

The raven croaks as Torksey's lord
    Attends that bannered host;
But the lover is deaf to the omen-bird—
    The fatal moat is crossed!

"Ride, ride!" saith the baron,—"thy ladye fain
    "And the priest—by the altar wait!"
And the spearmen seize his bridle-rein,
    And hurry him to his fate.

"A marriage by torchlight!" the baron said;
    "This stair to the altar leads!
"We patter our prayers, 'mong the mouldering dead,—
    "And there we tell our beads!"

Along the caverned dungeon's gloom
    The tyrant strides in haste;
And, powerless, to his dreadful doom
    The victim followeth fast.
The dazed captives quake and stare
At the sullen torch's blood-red glare,
    And the lover starts aghast
At the deathlike forms they wear!

Too late, the truth upon him breaks!—
    Romara's heart is faint!—
"Behold thy bride!" the baron shrieks—
        "Wilt hear the wedding chaunt?
"This chain once bound my father here,
        "Who would have found his grave—
        "The cursèd dotard!—'neath the wave,—
"Had not thy hateful hand been near.—
"Be this the bride thou now shalt wed!
"This dungeon dank thy bridal bed!—
"And when thy youthful blood shall freeze
"In death,—may fiends thy spirit seize!"

Plantagenet hath minions fell
Who do their master's bidding well:—
Few days Romara pines in dread—
His soul is with the sainted dead!—

Plantagenet hath reached his bourne!
What terrors meet his soul forlorn
And full of stain,—I may not say:—
Reveal them shall the judgment Day!—

Her orisons at matin hour,
    At noon, and eve, and midnight toll,
For him, doth tearful Agnes pour!—
    Jesu, Maria! sain* his soul!


Lincoln, 1836.


* Sain: to sanctify; to bless so as to protect from evil influence.
_____________


Hazell, Watson, and Viney, Printers, London and Aylesbury.

 



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