« AnteriorContinua »
The Moon is in her summer glow,
But hoarse and high the breezes blow,
And, racking o'er her face, the cloud
Varies the tincture of her shroud ;
On Barnard's towers, and Tees's stream,
She changes as a guilty dream,
When Conscience, with remorse and fear,
Goads sleeping Fancy's wild career.
Her light seems now the blush of shame,
Seems now fierce anger's darker flame,
Shifting that shade, to come and go,
Like apprehension's hurried glow;
Then sorrow's livery dims the air,
And dies in darkness, like despair.
Such varied hues the warder sees
Reflected from the woodland Tees,
Then from old Baliol's tower looks forth,
Sees the clouds mustering in the north,
Hears, upon turret-roof and wall,
By fits the plashing rain-drop fall,
Lists to the breeze's boding sound,
And wraps his shaggy mantle round.
Those towers, which in the changeful gleam
Throw murky shadows on the stream,
Those towers of Barnard hold a guest,
The emotions of whose troubled breast,
In wild and strange confusion driven,
Rival the flitting rack of heaven.
Ere sleep stern Oswald's senses tied,
Oft had he changed his weary side,
Composed his limbs, and vainly sought
By effort strong to banish thought.
Sleep came at length, but with a train
Of feelings true and fancies vain,
1 See Note 1 of the "NOTES TO ROKEBY” in the Appendix. The
figures of reference throughout the poem relate to further Notes in the
Mingling, in wild disorder cast,
The expected future with the past.
Conscience, anticipating time,
Already rues the enacted crime,
And calls her furies forth, to shake
The sounding scourge and hissing snake;
While her poor victim's outward throes
Bear witness to his mental woes,
And show what lesson may be read
Beside a sinner's restless bed.
Thus Oswald's labouring feelings trace
Strange changes in his sleeping face,
Rapid and ominous as these
With which the moonbeams tinge the Tees.
There might be seen of shame the blush,
There anger's dark and fiercer flush,
While the perturbed sleeper's hand
Seem'd grasping dagger-knife, or brand.
Relax'd that grasp, the heavy sigh,
The tear in the half-opening eye,
The palid cheek and brow, confess'd
That grief was busy in his breast;
Nor paused that mood—a sudden start
lld the life-blood from the heart:
Features convulsed, and mutterings dread,
Show terror reigns in sorrow's stead.
That pang the painful slumber broke,
And Oswald with a start awoke.
He woke, and fear'd again to close
His eyelids in such dire repose;
He woke,—to watch the lamp, and tell
From hour to hour the castle-bell.
Or listen to the owlet's cry,
Or the sad breeze that whistles by,
Or catch, by fits, the tuneless rhyme
With which the warder cheats the time,
And envying think, how, when the sun
Bids the poor soldier's watch be done,
Couch'd on his straw, and fancy-free,
He sleeps like careless infancy.
Far town-ward sounds a distant tread,
And Oswald, starting from his bed,
Hath caught it, though no human ear,
Unsharpen’d by revenge and fear,
Could e'er distinguish horse's clank,
Until it reach'd the castle bank.
Now nigh and plain the sound appears,
The warder's challenge now he hears,
Then clanking chains and levers tell,
That o'er the moat the drawbridge fell,
And, in the castle court below,
Voices are heard, and torches glow,
As marshalling the stranger's way,
Straight for the room where Oswald lay;
The cry was,—“ Tidings from the host,
Of weight-a messenger comes post."
Stifling the tumult of his brekst,
His answer Oswald thus express'd-
Bring food and wine, ånd trim the fire;
Admit the stranger, and retire."
The stranger came with heavy stride;
The morion's plumes his visage hide,
And the buff-coat, an ample fold,
Mantles his form's gigantic mould."
Full slender answer deigned he
To Oswald's anxious courtesy,
But mark'd, by a disdainful smile,
He saw and scorn'd the petty wile,
When Oswald changed the torch's place,
Anxious that on the soldier's face
Its partial lustre might be thrown,
To show his looks, yet hide his own.
His guest, the while, laid low aside
The ponderous cloak of tough bull's hide,
And to the torch glanced broad and clear
The corslet of a cuirassier;
Then from his brows the casque he drew,
And from the dank plume dash'd the dew,
From gloves of mail' relieved his hands,
And spread them to the kindling brands,
And, turning to the genial board,
Without a health, or pledge, or word
Of meet and social reverence said,
Deeply he drank, and fiercely fed;
As free from ceremony's sway,
As famish'd wolf that tears his prey.
VII. With deep impatience, tinged with fear, His host beheld him gorge his cheer, And quaff the full carouse, that lent His brow a fiercer hardiment. Now Oswald stood a space aside, Now paced the room with hasty stride, In feverish agony to learn Tidings of deep and dread concern, Cursing each moment that his guest Protracted o'er his ruffian feast. Yet, viewing with alarm, at last, The end of that uncouth repast,
Almost he seem'd their haste to rue,
As, at his sign, his train withdrew,
And left him with the stranger, free
To question of his mystery.
Then did his silence long proclaim
A struggle between fear and shame.
Much in the stranger's mien appears,
To justify suspicious fears.
On his dark face a scorching clime,
And toil, had done the work of time,
Roughen'd the brow, the temples bared,
sable hairs with silver shared,
Yet left-what age alone could tame-
The lip of pride, the eye of flame;
The full-drawn lip that upward curl'd,
The eye that seem'd to scorn the world.
That lip had terror never blench'd ;
Ne'er in that eye had tear-drop quench'd
The flash severe of swarthy glow,
That mock'd at pain, and knew not woe.
Inured to danger's direst form,
Tornade and earthquake, flood and storm,
Death had he seen by sudden blow,
By wasting plague, by tortures slow, 3
By mine or breach, by steel or ball,
Knew all his shapes, and scorned them all.
IX. But yet, though BERTRAM's harden'd look, Unmoved could blood and danger brook, Still worse than apathy had place On his swart brow and callous face; For evil passions, cherish'd long, Had plough'd them with impression strong. All that gives gloss to sin, all gay Light folly, past with youth away, But rooted stood, in manhood's hour, The weeds of vice without their flower. And yet the soil in which they grew, Had it been tamed when life was new, Had depth and vigour to bring forth The hardier fruits of virtuous worth. Not that, e'en then, his heart had known The gentler feelings' kindly tone; But lavish waste had been refined To bounty in his chasten'd mind, And lust of gold, that waste to feed, Been lost in love of glory's meed, And, frantic then no
more, his pride Had ta’en fair virtue for its guide.
X. Even now, by conscience unrestrain'd, Clogg'd by gross vice, by slaughter staindo
Still knew his daring soul to soar,
And mastery o'er the mind he bore ;
For meaner guilt, or heart less hard,
Quaild beneath Bertram's bold regard.
And this felt Oswald, while in vain
He strove, by many a winding train,
To lure his sullen guest to show,
Unask'd, the news he long'd to know,
While on far other subject hung
His heart, then falter'd from his tongue.
Yet nought for that his guest did deign
To note or spare his secret pain,
But still, in stern and stubborn sort,
Return'd him answer dark and short,
Or started from the theme, to range
In loose digression wild and strange,
And forced the embarass'd host to buy,
By query close, direct reply.
A while he glozed upon the cause
Of Commons, Covenant, and Laws,
And Church Reformid--but felt rebuke
Beneath grim Bertram's sneering look,
Then stammer'd—“ Has a field been fought?
Has Bertram news of battle brought ?
For sure a soldier, famed so far
In foreign fields for feats of war,
On eve of fight ne'er left the host,
Until the field were won and lost.”
“Here, in your towers by circling Tees,
You, Oswald Wycliffe, rest at ease;
Why deem it strange that others come
To share such safe and easy home,
From fields where danger, death, and toil,
Are the reward of civil broil ?”
“ Nay, mock not, friend! since well we know
The near advances of the foe,
To mar our northern army's work,
Encamp'd before beleaguer'd York;
Thy horse with valiant Fairfax lay,
And must have fought-how went the day?"._
“Wouldst hear the tale ?-On Marston heath
Met, front to front, the ranks of death ;
Flourish'd the trumpets fierce, and now
Fired was each eye, and flush'd each brow;
On either side loud clamours ring,
God and the Cause!'-'God and the King!
Right English all, they rush'd to blows,
With nought to win, and all to lose.
I could have laugh'd- but lack'd the time
To see, in phrenesy sublime,