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The Lady of La Garaye. Norton, Caroline Sheridan, 1808–1877.
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THE LADY OF LA GARAYE.

PROLOGUE.

  • RUINS! A charm is in the word:
  • It makes us smile, it makes us sigh,
  • ’Tis like the note of some spring bird
  • Recalling other Springs gone by,
  • And other wood‐notes which we heard
  • With some sweet face in some green lane,
  • And never can so hear again!
page: 16
  • Ruins! They were not desolate
  • To us,—the ruins we remember:
  • Early we came and lingered late,
  • Through bright July, or rich September;
  • With young companions wild with glee,
  • We feasted ’neath some spreading tree—
  • And looked into their laughing eyes,
  • And mocked the echo for replies.
  • Oh! eyes—and smiles—and days of yore,
  • Can nothing your delight restore?
  • Return!
  • Return? In vain we listen;
  • Those voices have been lost to earth!
  • Our hearts may throb—our eyes may glisten,
  • They’ll call no more in love or mirth.
  • For, like a child sent out to play,
  • Our youth hath had its holiday,
  • And silence deepens where we stand
  • page: 17
  • Lone as in some foreign land,
  • Where our language is not spoken,
  • And none know our hearts are broken.
  • Ruins! How we loved them then!
  • How we loved the haunted glen
  • Which grey towers overlook,
  • Mirrored in the glassy brook.
  • How we dreamed,—and how we guessed,
  • Looking up, with earnest glances,
  • Where the black crow built its nest,
  • And we built our wild romances;
  • Tracing in the crumbled dwelling
  • Bygone tales of no one’s telling!
  • This was the Chapel: that the stair:
  • Here, where all lies damp and bare,
  • The fragrant thurible was swung,
  • page: 18
  • The silver lamp in beauty hung,
  • And in that mass of ivied shade
  • The pale nuns sang—the abbot prayed.
  • This was the Kitchen. Cold and blank
  • The huge hearth yawns; and wide and high
  • The chimney shows the open sky;
  • There daylight peeps through many a crank
  • Where birds immund find shelter dank,
  • And when the moonlight shineth through,
  • Echoes the wild tu‐whit tu‐whoo
  • Of mournful owls, whose languid flight
  • Scarce stirs the silence of the night.
  • This is the Courtyard,—damp and drear!
  • The men‐at‐arms were mustered here;
  • Here would the fretted war‐horse bound,
  • Starting to hear the trumpet sound;
  • page: 19
  • And Captains, then of warlike fame,
  • Clanked and glittered as they came.
  • Forgotten names! forgotten wars!
  • Forgotten gallantry and scars!
  • How is your little busy day
  • Perished and crushed and swept away!
  • Here is the Lady’s Chamber, whence
  • With looks of lovely innocence
  • Some heroine our fancy dresses
  • In golden locks or raven tresses,
  • And pearl embroidered silks and stuffs,
  • And quaintly quilted sleeves and ruffs,
  • Looked forth to see retainers go,
  • Or trembled at the assaulting foe.
  • This was the Dungeon; deep and dark!
  • Where the starved prisoner moaned in vain
  • page: 20
  • Until Death left him, stiff and stark,
  • Unconscious of the galling chain
  • By which the thin bleached bones were bound
  • When chance revealed them under ground.
  • Oh, Time! oh, ever conquering Time!
  • These men had once their prime:
  • But now, succeeding generations hear
  • Beneath the shadow of each crumbling arch
  • The music low and drear,
  • The muffled music of thy onward march,
  • Made up of piping winds and rustling leaves
  • And plashing rain‐drops falling from slant eaves,
  • And all mysterious unconnected sounds
  • With which the place abounds.
  • Time doth efface
  • Each day some lingering trace
  • Of human government and human care:
  • page: 21
  • The things of air
  • And earth, usurp the walls to be their own;
  • Creatures that dwell alone,
  • Occupy boldly: every mouldering nook
  • Wherein we peer and look,
  • Seems with wild denizens so swarming rife,
  • We know the healthy stir of human life
  • Must be for ever gone!
  • The walls where hung the warriors’ shining casques
  • Are green with moss and mould;
  • The blindworm coils where Queens have slept, nor asks
  • For shelter from the cold.
  • The swallow,—he is master all the day,
  • And the great owl is ruler through the night;
  • The little bat wheels on his circling way
  • With restless flittering flight;
  • page: 22
  • And that small black bat, and the creeping things,
  • At will they come and go,
  • And the soft white owl with velvet wings
  • And a shriek of human woe!
  • The brambles let no footstep pass
  • By that rent in the broken stair,
  • Where the pale tufts of the windle‐strae grass
  • Hang like locks of dry dead hair;
  • But there the keen wind ever weeps and moans,
  • Working a passage through the mouldering stones.
  • Oh, Time! oh, conquering Time!
  • I know that wild wind’s chime
  • Which, like a passing bell,
  • Or distant knell,
  • Speaks to man’s heart of Death and of Decay;
  • page: 23
  • While thy step passes o’er the necks of Kings
  • And over common things,—
  • And into Earth’s green orchards making way,
  • Halts, where the fruits of human hope abound,
  • And shakes their trembling ripeness to the ground.
  • But hark, a sudden shout
  • Of laughter! and a nimble giddy rout,
  • Who know not yet what saddened hours may mean,
  • Come dancing through the scene!
  • Ruins! Ruins! let us roam
  • Through what was a human home,
  • What care we
  • How deep its depths of darkness be?
  • Follow! Follow!
  • page: 24
  • Down the hollow
  • Through the bramble‐fencing thorns
  • Where the white snail hides her horns;
  • Leap across the dreadful gap
  • To that corner’s mossy lap,—
  • Do, and dare!
  • Clamber up the crumbling stair;
  • Trip along the narrow wall,
  • Where the sudden rattling fall
  • Of loosened stones, on winter nights,
  • In his dreams the peasant frights:
  • And push them, till their rolling sound,
  • Dull and heavy, beat the ground.
  • Now a song, high up and clear,
  • Like a lark’s enchants the ear;
  • Or some happy face looks down,
  • Looking, oh! so fresh and fair,
  • page: 25
  • Wearing youth’s most glorious crown,
  • One rich braid of golden hair:
  • Or two hearts that wildly beat,
  • And two pair of eager feet,
  • Linger in the turret’s bend
  • As they side by side ascend,
  • For the momentary bliss
  • Of a lover’s stolen kiss;
  • And emerge into the shining
  • Of that summer day’s declining,
  • Disengaging clasping hands
  • As they meet their comrade bands;
  • With the smile that lately hovered,
  • (Making lips and eyes so bright,)
  • And the blush which darkness covered
  • Mantling still in rosy light!
  • Ruins! Oh! ye have your charm;
  • page: 26
  • Death is cold, but life is warm;
  • And the fervent days we knew
  • Ere our hopes grew faint and few,
  • Claim even now a happy sigh,
  • Thinking of those hours gone by:
  • Of the wooing long since passed,—
  • Of the love that still shall last,—
  • Of the wooing and the winning;
  • Brightest end to bright beginning;
  • When the feet we sought to guide
  • Tripped so lightly by our side,
  • That, as swift they made their way
  • Through the path and tangled brake,
  • Safely we could swear and say
  • We loved all ruins for their sake!
  • Gentle hearts, one ruin more
  • From amongst so many score—
  • page: 27
  • One, from out a host of names,
  • To your notice puts forth claims.
  • Come! with me make holiday,
  • In the woods of La Garaye,
  • Sit within those tangled bowers,
  • Where fleet by the silent hours,
  • Only broken by a song
  • From the chirping woodland throng.
  • Listen to the tale I tell:
  • Grave the story is—not sad;
  • And the peasant plodding by
  • Greets the place with kindly eye
  • For the inmates that it had!
page: 29

THE LADY OF LA GARAYE.

PART I.

  • ON Dinan’s walls the morning sunlight plays,
  • Gilds the stern fortress with a crown of rays,
  • Shines on the children’s heads that troop to school,
  • Turns into beryl‐brown the forest pool,
  • Sends diamond sparkles over gushing springs,
  • And showers down glory on the simplest things.
  • page: 30
  • And many a young seigneur and damsel bold
  • See with delight those beams of reddening gold,
  • For they are bid to join the hunt to‐day
  • By Claud Marot, the lord of La Garaye;
  • And merry is it in his spacious halls;
  • Cheerful the host, whatever sport befalls,
  • Cheerful and courteous, full of manly grace,
  • His heart’s frank welcome written in his face;
  • So eager, that his pleasure never cloys,
  • But glad to share whatever he enjoys;
  • Rich, liberal, gaily dressed, of noble mien,
  • Clear eyes,—full curving mouth,—and brow serene;
  • Master of speech in many a foreign tongue,
  • And famed for feats of arms, although so young;
  • Dexterous in fencing, skilled in horsemanship—
  • His voice and hand preferred to spur or whip;
  • Quick at a jest and smiling repartee,
  • page: 31
  • With a sweet laugh that sounded frank and free,
  • But holding Satire an accursèd thing,
  • A poisoned javelin or a serpent’s sting;
  • Pitiful to the poor; of courage high;
  • A soul that could all turns of fate defy
  • Gentle to women: reverent to old age:
  • What more, young Claud, could men’s esteem engage?
  • What more be given to bless thine earthy state,
  • Save Love,—which still must crown the happiest fate!
  • Love, therefore, came. That sunbeam lit his life
  • And where he wooed, he won, a gentle wife
  • Born, like himself, of lineage brave and good;
  • And, like himself, of warm and eager mood;
  • Glad to share gladness, pleasure to impart,
  • With dancing spirits and a tender heart.
  • page: 32
  • Pleased too to share the manlier sports which made
  • The joy of his young hours. No more afraid
  • Of danger, than the seabird, used to soar
  • From the high rocks above the ocean’s roar,
  • Which dips its slant wing in the wave’s white crest,
  • And deems the foamy undulations, rest.
  • Nor think the feminine beauty of her soul
  • Tarnished by yielding to such joy’s control;
  • Nor that the form which, like a flexile reed,
  • Swayed with the movements of her bounding steed,
  • Took from those graceful hours a rougher force,
  • Or left her nature masculine and coarse.
  • She was not bold from boldness, but from love;
  • Bold from gay frolic; glad with him to rove
  • page: 33
  • In danger or in safety, weal or woe,
  • And where he ventured, still she yearned to go.
  • Bold with the courage of his bolder life,
  • At home a tender and submissive wife;
  • Abroad, a woman, modest,—ay, and proud;
  • Not seeking homage from the casual crowd.
  • She remained pure, that darling of his sight,
  • In spite of boyish feats, and rash delight;
  • Still the eyes fell before an insolent look,
  • Or flashed their bright and innocent rebuke;
  • Still the cheek kept its delicate youthful bloom,
  • And the blush reddened through the snow‐white plume.
  • He that had seen her, with her courage high,
  • First in the chase where all dashed rapid by;
  • He that had watched her bright impetuous look
  • When she prepared to leap the silver brook,—
  • page: 34
  • Fair in her Springtime as a branch of May,—
  • Had felt the dull sneer feebly die away,
  • And unused kindly smiles upon his cold lips play!
  • God made all pleasure innocent; but man
  • Turns them to shame, since first our earth began
  • To shudder ’neath the stroke of delving tools
  • When Eve and Adam lost,—poor tempted fools,—
  • The sweet safe shelter of their Eden bowers,
  • Its easy wealth of sun‐ripe fruits and flowers,
  • For some forbidden zest that was not given,
  • Some riotous hope to make a mimic heaven,
  • And sank,—from being wingless angels,—low
  • Into the depths of mean and abject woe.
  • Why should the sweet elastic sense of joy
  • Presage a fault? Why should the pleasure cloy,
  • page: 35
  • Or turn to blame, which Heaven itself inspires,
  • Who gave us health and strength and all desires?
  • The children play, and sin not;—let the young
  • Still carol songs, as others too have sung;
  • Still urge the fiery courser o’er the plain,
  • Proud of his glossy sides and flowing mane;
  • Still, when they meet in careless hours of mirth,
  • Laugh, as if Sorrow were unknown to earth;
  • Prattling sweet nothings, which, like buds of flowers,
  • May turn to earnest thoughts and vigilant hours.
  • What boys can suffer, and weak women dare,
  • Let Indian and Crimean wastes declare:
  • Perchance in that gay group of laughers stand
  • Guides and defenders for our native land;—
  • Folly it is to see a wit in woe,
  • And hold youth sinful for the spirits’ flow.
  • page: 36
  • As thro’ the meadow lands clear rivers run,
  • Blue in the shadow—silver in the sun—
  • Till, rolling by some pestilential source,
  • Some factory work whose wheels with horrid force
  • Strike the pure waters with their dripping beams,
  • Send poison gushing to the crystal streams,
  • And leave the innocent things to whom God gave
  • A natural home in that translucent wave
  • Gasping strange death, and floating down to show
  • The evil working in the depths below,—
  • So man can poison pleasure at its source;
  • Clog the swift sparkle of its rapid course,
  • Mix muddy morbid thoughts in vicious strife,
  • Till to the surface floats the death of life;—
  • page: 37
  • But not the less the stream itself was pure—
  • And not the less may blameless joy endure.
  • Careless,—but not impure,—the joyous days
  • Passed in a rapturous whirl; a giddy maze,
  • Where the young Count and lovely Countess drew
  • A new delight from every pleasure new.
  • They woke to gladness as the morning broke;
  • Their very voices kept, whene’er they spoke,
  • A ring of joy, a harmony of life,
  • That made you bless the husband and the wife.
  • And every day the careless festal throng,
  • And every night the dance and feast and song,
  • Shared with young boon companions, marked the time
  • As with a carillon’s exulting chime;
  • page: 38
  • Where those two entered, gloom passed out of sight,
  • Chased by the glow of their intense delight.
  • So, till the day when over Dinan’s walls
  • The Autumn sunshine of my story falls;
  • And the guests bidden, gather for the chase,
  • And the smile brightens on the lovely face
  • That greets them in succession as they come
  • Into that high and hospitable home.
  • Like a sweet picture doth the Lady stand,
  • Still blushing as she bows; one tiny hand,
  • Hid by a pearl‐embroidered gauntlet, holds
  • Her whip, and her long robe’s exuberant folds.
  • The other hand is bare, and from her eyes
  • Shades now and then the sun, or softly lies,
  • With a caressing touch, upon the neck
  • page: 39
  • Of the dear glossy steed she loves to deck
  • With saddle‐housings worked in golden thread,
  • And golden bands upon his noble head.
  • White is the little hand whose taper fingers
  • Smooth his fine coat,—and still the lady lingers,
  • Leaning against his side; nor lifts her head,
  • But gently turns as gathering footsteps tread;
  • Reminding you of doves with shifting throats,
  • Brooding in sunshine by their sheltering cotes.
  • Under her plumèd hat her wealth of curls
  • Falls down in golden links among her pearls,
  • And the rich purple of her velvet vest
  • Slims the young waist, and rounds the graceful breast.
  • So, till the latest joins the happy Meet;
  • Then springs she gladly to her eager feet;
  • And, while the white hand from her courser’s side
  • page: 40
  • Slips like a snow‐flake, stands prepared to ride.
  • Then lightly vaulting to her seat, she seems
  • Queen of some fair procession seen in dreams;
  • Queen of herself, and of the world; sweet Queen!
  • Her crown the plume above her brow serene,
  • Her jewelled whip a sceptre, and her dress
  • The regal mantle worn by loveliness.
  • And well she wears such mantle: swift the he horse,
  • But firm her seat throughout the rapid course;
  • No rash unsteadiness, no shifting pose
  • Disturbs that line of beauty as she goes:
  • She wears her robe as some fair sloop her sails,
  • Which swell and flutter to the rising gales,
  • But never from the cordage taut and trim
  • Slacken or swerve away. The evening dim
  • page: 41
  • Sees her return, unwearied and unbent,
  • The fair folds falling smooth as when she went;
  • The little foot no clasping buckle keeps,
  • She frees it, and to earth untrammelled leaps.
  • Alas! look well upon that picture fair!
  • The face—the form—the smile—the golden hair;
  • The agile beauty of each movement made,—
  • The loving softness of her eyes’ sweet shade,
  • The bloom and pliant grace of youthful days,
  • The gladness and the glory of her gaze.
  • If we knew when the last time was the last,
  • Visions so dear to straining eyes went past;
  • If we knew when the horror and the gloom
  • Should overcast the pride of beauty’s bloom;
  • If we knew when affection nursed in vain
  • Should grow to be but bitterness and pain;
  • It were a curse to blight all living hours
  • page: 42
  • With a hot dust, like dark volcano showers.
  • Give thanks to God who blinded us with Hope;
  • Denied man skill to draw his horoscope;
  • And, to keep mortals of the present fond,
  • Forbid the keenest sight to pierce beyond!
  • Falsehood from those we trusted; cruel sneers
  • From those whose voice was music to our ears;
  • Lonely old age; oppressed and orphaned youth;
  • Yearning appeals to hearts that know no ruth;
  • Ruin, that starves pale mouths we loved to feed;
  • A friend’s forsaking in our utmost need;
  • These come,—and sting,—and madden; ay, and slay;
  • But not the less our joy hath had its day;
  • No little cloud first flecked our tranquil skies,
  • Presaging shipwreck to the prophet eyes;
  • No hand came forth upon the walls of home
  • page: 43
  • With vanishing radiance writing darkest doom;
  • No child‐soul called us in the dead of night,
  • Thrilled with a message from a God of might;
  • No shrouded Seer, by some enforcing spell,
  • Rose from Death’s rest, Life’s restless chance to tell;
  • The lightning smote us—shivering stem and bough:
  • All was so green: all lies so blighted now!
  • They ride together all that sunny day,
  • Claud and the lovely Lady of Garaye;
  • O’er hill and dale,—through fields of late reaped corn,
  • Through woods,—wherever sounds the hunting horn,
  • Wherever scour the fleet hounds, fast they follow,
  • page: 44
  • Through tufted thickets and the leaf‐strewn hollow;
  • And thrice,—the game secured,—they rest awhile,
  • And slacken bridle with a breathless smile:
  • And thrice, with joyous speed, off, off they go,—
  • Like a fresh arrow from a new‐strung bow!
  • But now the ground is rough with boulder stones,
  • Where, wild beneath, the prisoned streamlet moans,
  • The prisoned streamlet strugggling to be free,
  • Baring the roots of many a toppling tree,
  • Breaking the line where smooth‐barked saplings rank,
  • And undermining all the creviced bank;
  • Till gushing out at length to open space,
  • page: 45
  • Mad with the effort of its desperate race,
  • It pauses, swelling o’er the narrow ridge
  • Where fallen branches make a natural bridge,
  • Leaps to the next desent, and, balked no more,
  • Foams to a waterfall, whose ceaseless roar
  • Echoes far down the banks, and through the forest hoar!
  • Across the water full of peakèd stones—
  • Across the water where it chafes and moans—
  • Across the water at its widest part—
  • Which wilt thou leap,—oh, lady of brave heart?
  • Their smiling eyes have met—those eager two:
  • She looks at Claud, as questioning which to do:
  • He rides—reins in —looks down the torrent’s course,—
  • Pats the sleek neck of his sure‐footed horse,—
  • page: 46
  • Stops,—measures spaces with his eagle eye,
  • Tries a new track, and yet returns to try.
  • Sudden, while pausing at the very brink,
  • The damp leaf‐covered ground appears to sink,
  • And the keen instinct of the wise dumb brute
  • Escapes the yielding earth, the slippery root;
  • With a wild effort as if taking wing
  • The monstrous gap he clears with one safe spring;
  • Reaches—(and barely reaches)—past the roar
  • Of the wild stream, the further lower shore,—
  • Scrambles—recovers,—rears—and panting stands
  • Safe ’neath his master’s nerveless trembling hands.
  • Oh! even while he leapt, his horrid thought
  • Was of the peril to that lady brought;
  • Oh! even while he leapt, her Claud looked back,
  • And shook his hand to warn her from the track.
  • page: 47
  • In vain: the pleasant voice she loved so well
  • Feebly re‐echoed through that dreadful dell,
  • The voice that was the music of her home
  • Shouted in vain across that torrent’s foam.
  • He saw her, pausing on the bank above;
  • Saw,—like a dreadful vision of his love,—
  • That dazzling dream stand on the edge of death:
  • Saw it—and stared—and prayed—and held his breath.
  • Bright shone the Autumn sun on wood and plain;
  • On the steed’s glossy flanks and flowing mane;
  • On the wild silver of the rushing brook;
  • On his wife’s smiling and triumphant look;
  • Bright waved against the sky her wind‐tost plume,
  • page: 48
  • Bright on her freshened cheek the healthy bloom,—
  • Oh! all bright things, how could ye end in doom?
  • Forward they leaped! They leaped—a coloured flash
  • Of life and beauty. Hark! a sudden crash,—
  • Blent with that dreadful sound, a man’s sharp cry,—
  • Prone,—’neath the crumbling bank,—the horse and lady lie!
  • The heart grows humble in an awe‐struck grief;
  • Claud thinks not, dreams not, plans not her relief.
  • Strengthen him but, O God! to reach the place,
  • And let him look upon her dying face!
  • page: 49
  • Let him but say farewell! farewell, sweet love!
  • And once more hear her speak, and see her move,—
  • And ask her if she suffers where she lies,—
  • And kiss the lids down on her closing eyes,—
  • And he will be content.
  • He climbs and strives:
  • The strength is in his heart of twenty lives;
  • Across the leaf‐strewn gaps he madly springs;
  • From branch to branch like some wild ape he swings;
  • Breasts, with hot effort, that cold rushing source
  • Of death and danger. With a giant’s force
  • His bleeding hands and broken nails have clung
  • Round the gnarled slippery roots above him hung,
  • And now he’s near,—he sees her through the leaves;
  • page: 50
  • But a new horrid fear his mind receives:
  • The steed! his hoofs may crush that angel head!
  • No, Claud,—her favourite is already dead,
  • One shivering gasp thro’ limbs that now stretch out like lead.
  • He’s with her! is he dying too? his blood
  • Beats no more to and fro; his abstract mood
  • Weighs like a nightmare; something, well he knows,
  • Is horrible,—and still the horror grows;
  • But what it is, or how it came to pass,
  • Or why he lies half fainting on the grass,
  • Or what he strove to clutch at in his fall,
  • Or why he had no power for help to call,
  • This is confused and lost.
  • But Claud has heard
  • A sound like breathings from a sleeping bird
  • page: 51
  • New‐caged that day,—a weak distrubing sigh,
  • The whisper of a grief that cannot cry,—
  • Repeated, and then still; and then again
  • Repeated,—and a long low moan of pain.
  • The hunt is passing; through the arching glade
  • The hounds sweep on in flickering light and shade,
  • The cheery huntsman winds his rallying horn,
  • And voices shouting from his guests that morn
  • Keep calling, calling, “Claud, the hunt is o’er,
  • Return we to the merry halls once more!”
  • Claud hears not; heeds not;—all is like a dream
  • Except that lady lying by the stream;
  • Above all tumult of uproarious sound
  • Comes the faint sigh that breathes along the ground,
  • Where pale as death in her returning life
  • page: 52
  • Writhes the sweet angel whom he still calls wife.
  • He parts the masses of her golden hair,
  • He lifts her, helpless, with a shudderng care,
  • He looks into her face with awe‐struck eyes;—
  • She dies—the darling of his soul—she dies!
  • You might have heard, through that thought’s fearful shock,
  • The beating of his heart like some huge clock;
  • And then the strong pulse falter and stand still,
  • When lifted from that fear with sudden thrill
  • He bent to catch faint murmurs of his name,
  • Which from those blanched lips low and trembling came:
  • “Oh! Claud!” she said: no more—
  • But never yet,
  • Through all the loving days since first they met,
  • page: 53
  • Leaped his heart’s blood with such a yearning vow
  • That she was all in all to him, as now.
  • “Oh! Claud—the pain!”
  • “Oh! Gertrude, my beloved!”
  • Then faintly o’er her lips a wan smile moved,
  • Which dumbly spoke of comfort from his tone,
  • As though she felt half saved, not so to die alone.
  • Ah! happy they who in their grief or pain
  • Yearn not for some familiar face in vain;
  • Who in the sheltering arms of love can lie
  • Till human passion breathes its latest sigh;
  • Who, when words fail to enter the dull ear,
  • And when eyes cease from seeing forms most dear,
  • Still the fond clasping touch can understand,—
  • page: 54
  • And sink to death from that detaining hand!
  • He sits and watches; and she lies and moans;
  • The wild stream rushes over broken stones;
  • The dead leaves flutter to the mossy earth;
  • Far‐away echoes bring the hunters’ mirth;
  • And the long hour creeps by—too long—too long;
  • Till the chance music of a peasant’ song
  • Breaks the hard silence with a human hope,
  • And Claud starts up and gazes down the slope;
  • And from a wandering herdsman he obtains
  • The help whose want has chilled his anxious veins.
  • Into a simple litter then they bind
  • Thin cradling branches deftly intertwined;
  • And there they lay the lady as they found her,
  • With all her bright hair streaming sadly round her;
  • page: 55
  • Her white lips parted o’er the pearly teeth
  • Like pictured saints’, who die a martyr’s death,—
  • And slowly bear her, like a corse of clay,
  • Back to the home she left so blithe to‐day.
  • The starry lights shine forth from tower and hall,
  • Stream through the gateway, glimmer on the wall,
  • And the loud pleasant stir of busy men
  • In courtyard and in stable sounds again.
  • And through the windows, as that death‐bier passes,
  • They see the shining of the ruby glasses
  • Set at brief intervals for many a guest
  • Prepared to share the laugh, the song, the jest;
  • Prepared to drink, with many a courtly phrase,
  • Their host and hostess—‘Health to the Garayes!’
  • Health to the slender, lithe, yet stalwart frame
  • page: 56
  • Of Claud Marot—Count of that noble name;
  • Health to his lovely Countess: health—to her!
  • Scarce seems she now with faintest breath to stir:
  • Oh! half‐shut eyes—oh! brow with torture damp,—
  • Will life’s oil rise in that expiring lamp?
  • Are there yet days to come, or does he bend
  • Over a hope of which this is the end?
  • He shivers, and hot tears shut out the sight
  • Of that dear home for feasting made so bright;
  • The golden evening light is round him dying,
  • The dark rooks to their nests are slowly flying,
  • As underneath the portal, faint with fear,
  • He sees her carried, now so doubly dear;
  • “Save her!” is written in his anxious glances,
  • As the quick‐summoned leech in haste advances.
  • page: 57
  • “Save her!”—and through the gloom of midnight hours,
  • And through the hot noon, shut from air and flowers,
  • Young Claud sits patient—waiting day by day
  • For health for that sweet lady of Garaye.
page: 59

THE LADY OF LA GARAYE.

PART II.

  • A FIRST walk after sickness: the sweet breeze
  • That murmurs welcome in the bending trees,
  • When the cold shadowy foe of life departs,
  • And the warm blood flows freely through our hearts:
  • The smell of roses,—sound of trickling streams,
  • The elastic turf cross‐barred with golden gleams,
  • That seems to lift, and meet our faltering tread;
  • page: 60
  • The happy birds, loud singing overhead;
  • The glorious range of distant shade and light,
  • In blue perspective, rapturous to our sight,
  • Weary of draperied curtains folding round,
  • And the monotonous chamber’s narrow bound;
  • With,—best of all,—the consciousness at length,
  • In every nerve of sure returning strength:—
  • Long the dream stayed to cheer that darkened room,
  • That this should be the end of all that gloom!
  • Long, as the vacant life trained idly by,
  • She pressed her pillow with a restless sigh,—
  • “To‐morrow, surely, I shall stronger feel!”
  • To‐morrow! but the slow days onward steal,
  • And find her still with feverish aching head,
  • Still cramped with pain; still lingering in her bed;
  • page: 61
  • Still sighing out the tedium of the time;
  • Still listening to the clock’s recurring chime,
  • As though the very hours that struck were foes,
  • And might, but would not, grant complete respose.
  • Until the skilled physician,—sadly bold
  • From frequent questioning,—her sentence told!
  • That no good end could come to her faint yearning,—
  • That no bright hour should see her health returning,—
  • That changeful seasons,—not for one dark year,
  • But on through life,—must teach her how to bear:
  • For through all Springs, with rainbow‐tinted showers,
  • And through all Summers, with their wealth of flowers,
  • page: 62
  • And every Autumn, with its harvest‐home,
  • And all white Winters of the time to come,—
  • Crooked and sick for ever she must be:
  • Her life of wild activity and glee
  • Was with the past, the future was a life
  • Dismal and feeble; full of suffering; rife
  • With chill denials of accustomed joy,
  • Continual torment, and obscure annoy.
  • Blighted in all her bloom,—her withered frame
  • Must now inherit age; young but in name.
  • Never could she, at close of some long day
  • Of pain that strove with hope, exulting lay
  • A tiny new‐born infant on her breast,
  • And, in the soft lamp’s glimmer, sink to rest,
  • The strange corporeal weakness sweetly blent
  • With a delicious dream of full content;
  • With pride of motherhood, and thankful prayers,
  • And a confused glad sense of novel cares,
  • page: 63
  • And peeps into the future brightly given,
  • As though her babe’s blue eyes turned earth to heaven!
  • Never again could she, when Claud returned
  • After brief absence, and her fond heart yearned
  • To see his earnest eyes, with upward glancing,
  • Greet her known windows, even while yet advancing,—
  • Fly with light footsteps down the great hall‐stair,
  • And give him welcome in the open air
  • As though she were too glad to see him come,
  • To wait till he should enter happy home,
  • And there, quick‐breathing, glowing, sparkling stand,
  • His arm round her slim waist; hand locked in hand;
  • The mutual kiss exchanged of happy greeting,
  • page: 64
  • That needs no secrecy of lovers’ meeting;
  • While, giving welcome also in their way,
  • Her dogs barked rustling round him, wild with play;
  • And voices called, and hasty steps replied,
  • And the sleek fiery steed was led aside,
  • And the grey seneschal came forth and smiled,
  • Who held him in his arms while yet a child;
  • And cheery jinglings from unfastened doors,
  • And vaulted echoes through long corridors,
  • And distant bells that thrill along the wires,
  • And stir of logs that heap up autumn fires,
  • Crowned the glad eager bustle that makes known
  • The Master’s step is on his threshold‐stone!
  • Never again those rides so gladly shared,
  • So much enjoyed,—in which so much was dared
  • To prove no peril from the gate or brook,—
  • page: 65
  • Need bring the shadow of an anxious look,
  • To mar the pleasant ray of proud surprise
  • That shone from out those dear protecting eyes.
  • No more swift hurrying through the summer rain,
  • That showered light silver on the freshened plain,
  • Hung on the tassels of the hazel bough,
  • And plashed the azure of the river’s flow.
  • No more glad climbing of the mountain height,
  • From whence a map, drawn out in lines of light,
  • Showed dotting villages, and distant spires,
  • And the red rows of metal‐burning fires,
  • And purple covering woods, within which stand
  • White mansions of the nobles of the land.
  • No more sweet wanderings far from tread of men,
  • In the deep thickets of the sunny glen,
  • To see the vanished Spring bud forth again;
  • Its well remembered tufts of primrose set
  • page: 66
  • Among the sheltered banks of violet;
  • Or in thatched summer‐houses sit and dream,
  • Through gurgling gushes of the woodland stream;
  • Then, rested rise, and by the sunset ray
  • Saunter at will along the homeward way;
  • Pausing at each delight,—the singing loud
  • Of some sweet thrush, e’er lingering eve be done;
  • Or the pink shining of some casual cloud
  • That blushes deeper as it nears the sun.
  • The rough woodpath; the little rocky burn;
  • Nothing of this can ever now return.
  • The life of joy is over: what is left
  • Is a half life; a life of strength bereft;
  • The body broken from the yearning soul,
  • Never again to make a perfect whole!
  • Helpless desires, and cravings unfulfilled;
  • Bitter regret, in stormy weepings stilled;
  • page: 67
  • Strivings whose easy effort used to bless,
  • Grown full of danger and sharp weariness;
  • This is the life whose dreadful dawn must rise
  • When the night lifts, within whose gloom she lies:
  • Hope, on whose lingering help she leaned so late,
  • Struck from her clinging by the sword of fate—
  • That wild word NEVER, to her shrinking gaze,
  • Seems written on the wall in fiery rays.
  • Never!—our helpless changeful natures shrink
  • Before that word as from the grave’s cold brink!
  • Set us a term whereto we must endure,
  • And you shall find our crown of patience sure;
  • But the irrevocable smites us down;—
  • Helpless we lie before the eternal frown;
  • Waters of Marah whelm the blinded soul,
  • Stifle the heart, and drown our self‐control.
  • page: 68
  • So, when she heard the grave physician speak,
  • Horror crept through her veins, who, faint and weak,
  • And tortured by all motion, yet had lain
  • With a meek cheerfulness that conquered pain,
  • Hoping,—till that dark hour. Give back the hope,
  • Though years rise sad with intervening scope!
  • Scarce can those radiant eyes with sickly stare
  • Yet comprehend that sentence of despair:
  • Crooked and sick for ever! Crooked and sick!
  • She, in whose veins the passionate blood ran quick
  • As leaps the rivulet from the mountain height,
  • That dances rippling into Summer light;
  • She, in whose cheek the rich bloom always stayed,
  • And only deepened to a lovelier shade;
  • She, whose fleet limbs no exercise could tire,
  • page: 69
  • When wild hill‐climbing wooed her spirit higher!
  • Knell not above her bed this funeral chime;
  • Bid her be prisoner for a certain time;
  • Tell her blank years must waste in that changed home,
  • But not for ever,—not for life to come;
  • Let infinite torture be her daily guest,
  • But set a term beyond which shall be rest.
  • In vain! she sees that trembling fountain rise,
  • Tears of compassion in an old man’s eyes;
  • And in low pitying tones, again he tells
  • The doom that sounds to her like funeral bells.
  • Long on his face her wistful gaze she kept;
  • Then dropped her head, and wildly moaned and wept;
  • Shivering through every limb, as lightning thought
  • page: 70
  • Smote her with all the endless ruin wrought.
  • Never to be a mother! Never give
  • Another life beyond her own to live,
  • Never to see her husband bless their child,
  • Thinking (dear blessèd thought!) like him it smiled:
  • Never again with Claud to walk or ride,
  • Partake his pleasures with a playful pride,
  • But cease from all companionship so shared,
  • And only have the hours his pity spared.
  • His pity—ah! his pity, would it prove
  • As warm and lasting as admiring love?
  • Or would her petty joys’ late‐spoken doom
  • Carry the great joy with them to joy’s tomb?
  • Would all the hopes of life at once take wing?
  • The thought went through her with a secret sting,
  • And she repeated, with a moaning cry,
  • “Better to die, O God! ’Twere best to die!”
  • page: 71
  • But we die not by wishing; in God’s hour,
  • And not our own, do we yield up the power
  • To suffer or enjoy. The broken heart
  • Creeps through the world, encumbered by its clay;
  • While dearly loved and cherished ones depart,
  • Though prayer and sore lamenting clog their way.
  • She lived: she left that sick room, and was brought
  • Into the scenes of customary thought:
  • The banquet‐room, where lonely sunshine slept,
  • Saw her sweet eyes look round before she wept;
  • The garden heard the slow wheels of her chair,
  • When noon‐day heat had warmed the untried air;
  • The pictures she had smiled upon for years,
  • Met her gaze trembling through a mist of tears;
  • page: 72
  • Her favourite dog, his long unspoken name
  • Hearing once more, with timid fawning came;
  • It seemed as if all things partook her blight,
  • And sank in shadow like a spell of night.
  • And she saw Claud,—Claud in the open day,
  • Who through dim sunsets, curtained half away,
  • And by the dawn, and by the lamp’s pale ray
  • So long had watched her!
  • And Claud also saw,
  • That beauty which was once without a flaw;
  • And flushed,—but strove to hide the sense of shock,—
  • The feelings that some witchcraft seemed to mock.
  • Are those her eyes, those eyes so full of pain?
  • Her restless looks that hunt for ease in vain?
  • Is that her step, that halt uneven tread?
  • Is that her blooming cheek, so pale and dead?
  • page: 73
  • Is that,—the querulous anxious mind that tells
  • Its little ills, and on each ailment dwells,—
  • The spirit alert which early morning stirred
  • Even as it rouses every gladsome bird,
  • Whose chorus of irregular music goes
  • Up with the dew that leaves the sun‐touched rose?
  • Oh! altered, altered; even the smile is gone,
  • Which, like a sunbeam, once exulting shone!
  • Smiles have returned; but not the smiles of yore;
  • The joy, the youth, the triumph, are no more.
  • An anxious smile remains, that disconnects
  • Smiling from gladness; one that more dejects,
  • Than floods of passionate weeping, for it tries
  • To contradict the question of our eyes:
  • We say, “Thou’rt pained, poor heart, and full of woe?”
  • page: 74
  • It drops that shining veil, and answers “No;”
  • Shrinks from the touch of unaccepted hands,
  • And while it grieves, a show of joy commands.
  • Wan shine such smiles;—as evening sunlight falls
  • On a deserted house whose empty walls
  • No longer echo to the children’s play
  • Or voice of ruined inmates fled away;
  • Where wintry winds alone, with idle state,
  • Move the slow swinging of its rusty gate.
  • But something sadder even than her pain
  • Torments her now; and thrills each languid vein.
  • Love’s tender instinct feels through every nerve
  • When love’s desires, or love itself doth swerve.
  • All the world’s praise re‐echoed to the sky
  • Cancels not blame that shades a lover’s eye;
  • All the world’s blame, which scorn for scorn repays,
  • page: 74
  • Fails to disturb the joy of lover’s praise.
  • Ah! think not vanity alone doth deck
  • Wtih rounded pearls the young girl’s innocent neck,
  • Who in her duller days contented tries
  • The homely robe that with no rival vies,
  • But on the happy night she hopes to meet
  • The one to whom she comes with trembling feet,
  • With crimson roses decks her bosom fair,
  • Warm as the thoughts of love all glowing there,
  • Because she must his favourite colours wear;
  • And all the bloom and beauty of her youth
  • Can scarce repay, she thinks, her lover’s truth.
  • Vain is the argument so often moved,
  • “Who feels no jealousy hath never loved;”
  • She whose quick fading comes before her tomb,
  • Is jealous even of her former bloom.
  • page: 76
  • Restless she pines; because, to her distress,
  • One charm the more is now one claim the less
  • On his regard whose words are her chief treasures,
  • And by whose love alone her worth she measures.
  • Gertrude of La Garaye, thy heart is sore;
  • A worm is gnawing at the rose’s core,
  • A doubt corrodeth all thy tender trust,
  • The freshness of thy day is choked in dust.
  • Not for the pain—although the pain be great,
  • Not for the change—though changed be all thy state;
  • But for a sorrow dumb and unrevealed,
  • Most from its cause with mournful care concealed—
  • From Claud—who goes and who returns with sighs
  • And gazes on his wife with wistful eyes,
  • page: 77
  • And muses in his brief and cheerless rides
  • If her dull mood will mend; and inly chides
  • His own sad spirit, that sinks down so low,
  • Instead of lifting her from all her woe;
  • And thinks if he but loved her less, that he
  • Could cheer her drooping soul with gaiety—
  • But wonders evermore that Beauty’s loss
  • To such a soul should seem so sore a cross.
  • Until one evening in that quiet hush
  • That lulls the falling day, when all the gush
  • Of various sounds seem buried with the sun,
  • He told his thought.
  • As winter streamlets run,
  • Freed by some sudden thaw, and swift make way
  • Into the natural channels where they play,
  • So leaped her young heart to his tender tone,
  • page: 78
  • So, answering to his warmth, resumed her own;
  • And all her doubt and all her grief confest,
  • Leaning her faint head on his faithful breast.
  • “Not always, Claud, did I my beauty prize;
  • Thy words first made it precious in my eyes,
  • And till thy fond voice made the gift seem rare,
  • Nor tongue nor mirror taught me I was fair.
  • I recked no more of beauty in that day
  • Of happy girlishness and childlike play,
  • Than some poor woodland bird who stays his flight
  • On some low bough when summer days are bright,
  • And in that pleasant sunshine sits and sings,
  • And breaks the plumage of his glistening wings,
  • Recks of the passer‐by who stands to praise
  • His feathered smoothness and his thrilling lays.
  • page: 79
  • But now, I make my moan—I make my moan—
  • I weep the brightness lost, the beauty gone;
  • Because, now, fading is to fall from thee,
  • As the dead fruit falls blighted from the tree;
  • For thee,—not vanished loveliness,—I weep;
  • My beauty was a spell, thy love to keep;
  • For I have heard and read how men forsake
  • When time and tears that gift of beauty take,
  • Nor care although the heart they leave may break!”
  • A husband’s love was there—a husband’s love,—
  • Strong, comforting, all other loves above;
  • On her bowed neck he laid his tender hand,
  • And his voice steadied to his soul’s command:
  • “Oh! thou mistaken and unhappy child,
  • Still thy complainings, for thy words are wild.
  • Thy beauty, though so perfect, was but one
  • page: 80
  • Of the bright ripples dancing to the sun,
  • Which, from the hour I hoped to call thee wife,
  • Glanced down the silver stream of happy life.
  • Whatever change Time’s heavy clouds may make,
  • Those are the waters which my thirst shall slake;
  • River of all my hopes thou wert and art;
  • The current of thy being bears my heart;
  • Whether it sweep along in shine or shade,
  • By barren rocks, or banks in flowers arrayed,
  • Foam with the storm, or glide in soft repose,—
  • In that deep channel, love unswerving flows!
  • How canst thou dream of beauty as a thing
  • On which depends the heart’s own withering?
  • Lips budding red wth tints of vernal years,
  • And delicate lids of eyes that shed no tears,
  • And light that falls upon the shining hair
  • page: 81
  • As though it found a second sunbeam there,—
  • These must go by, my Gertrude, must go by;
  • The leaf must wither and the flower must die;
  • The rose can only have a rose’s bloom;
  • Age would have wrought thy wondrous beauty’s doom;
  • A little sooner did that beauty go—
  • A little sooner—Darling, take it so;
  • Nor add a strange despair to all this woe;
  • And take my faith, by changes unremoved,
  • To thy last hour of age and blight, beloved!”
  • But she again,—“Alas! not from distrust
  • I mourn, dear Claud, nor yet to thee unjust.
  • I love thee: I believe thee: yea, I know
  • Thy very soul is wrung to see my woe;
  • The earthquake of compassion trembles still
  • Within its depths, and conquers natural will.
  • page: 82
  • But after,—after,—when the shock is past,—
  • When cruel Time, who flies to change so fast,
  • Hath made my suffering an accustomed thing,
  • And only left me slowly withering;
  • Then will the empty days rise chill and lorn,
  • The lonely evening, the unwelcome morn,
  • Until thy path at length be brightly crost
  • By some one holding all that I have lost;
  • Some one with youthful eyes, enchanting, bright,
  • Full as the morning of a liquid light;
  • And while my pale lip stiff and sad remains,
  • Her smiles shall thrill like sunbeams through thy veins:
  • I shall fade down, and she, with simple art,
  • All bloom and beauty, dance into thy heart!
  • Then, then, my Claud, shall I—at length alone—
  • Recede from thee with an unnoticed moan,
  • page: 83
  • Sink where none heed me, and be seen no more,
  • Like waves that fringe the Netherlandish shore,
  • Which roll unmurmuring to the flat low land,
  • And sigh to death in that monotonous sand.”
  • Again his earnest hand on hers he lays,
  • With love and pain and wonder in his gaze.
  • “Oh, darling! bitter word and bitter thought
  • What dæmon to thy trusting heart hath brought?
  • It may be thus within some sensual breast,
  • By passion’s fire, not true love’s power possest;
  • The creature love, that never lingers late,
  • A springtide thirst for some chance‐chosen mate.
  • Oh! my companion, ’twas not so with me;
  • Not in the days long past, nor now shall be.
  • The drunken dissolute hour of Love’s sweet cup,
  • page: 84
  • When eyes are wild, and mantling blood is up,
  • Even in my youth to me was all unknown:
  • Until I truly loved, I was alone.
  • I asked too much of intellect and grace,
  • To pine, though young, for every pretty face,
  • Whose passing brightness to quick fancies made
  • A sort of sunshine in the idle shade;
  • Beauties who starred the earth like common flowers,
  • The careless eglantines of wayside bowers.
  • I lingered till some blossom rich and rare
  • Hung like a glory on the scented air,
  • Enamouring at once the heart and eye,
  • So that I paused, and could not pass it by.
  • Then woke the passionate love within my heart,
  • And only with my life shall that depart;
  • ’Twas not so sensual strong, so loving weak,
  • To ebb when ebbs the rose‐tinge on thy cheek;
  • page: 85
  • Fade with thy fading, weakening day by day
  • Till thy locks silver with a dawning grey:
  • No, Gertrude, trust me, for thou may’st believe,
  • A better faith is that which I receive;
  • Sacred I’ll hold the sacred name of wife,
  • And love thee to the sunset verge of life!
  • Yea, shall so much of empire o’er man’s soul
  • Live in a wanton’s smile, and no control
  • Bind down his heart to keep a steadier faith,
  • For links that are to last from life to death?
  • Let those who can, in transient love rejoice,—
  • Still to new hopes breathe forth successive sighs,—
  • Give me the music of the accustomed voice,
  • And the sweet light of long familiar eyes!”
  • He ceased. But she, for all her fervent speech,
  • Sighed as she listened. “Claud, I cannot reach
  • The summit of the hope where thou wouldst set me,
  • page: 86
  • And all I crave is never to forget me!
  • Wedded I am to pain and not to thee,
  • Thy life’s companion I no more can be,
  • For thou remainest all thou wert—but I
  • Am a fit bride for Death, and long to die.
  • Yea, long for death; for thou wouldst miss me then
  • More even than now, in mountain and in glen;
  • And musing by the white tomb where I lay,
  • Think of the happier time and earlier day,
  • And wonder if the love another gave
  • Equalled the passion buried in that grave.”
  • Then with a patient tenderness he took
  • That pale wife in his arms, with yearning look:
  • “Oh! dearer now than when thy girlish tongue
  • Faltered consent to love while both were young,
  • Weep no more foolish tears, but lift thy head;
  • page: 87
  • Those drops fall on my heart like molten lead;
  • And all my soul is full of vain remorse,
  • Because I let thee take that dangerous course,
  • Share in the chase, pursue with horn and hound,
  • And follow madly o’er the roughened ground.
  • Not lightly did I love, nor lightly choose;
  • Whate’er thou losest I will also lose;
  • If bride of Death,—being first my chosen bride,—
  • I will await death, lingering by thy side;
  • And God, He knows, who reads all human thought,
  • And by whose will this bitter hour was brought,
  • How eagerly, could human pain be shifted,
  • I would lie low, and thou once more be lifted
  • To walk in beauty as thou didst before,
  • And smile upon the welcome world once more.
  • Oh! loved even to the brim of love’s full fount,
  • page: 88
  • Wilt thou set nothing to firm faith’s account?
  • Choke back thy tears which are thy bitter smart,
  • Lean thy dear head upon my aching heart;
  • It may be God, who saw our careless life,
  • Not sinful, yet not blameless, my sweet wife,
  • (Since all we thought of, in our youth’s bright May,
  • Was but the coming joy from day to day;)
  • Hath blotted out all joy to bid us learn
  • That this is not our home; and make us turn
  • From the enchanted earth, where much was given,
  • To higher aims, and a forgotten heaven.”
  • So spoke her love—and wept in spite of words;
  • While her heart echoed all his heart’s accords,
  • And leaning down, she said with whispering sigh,
  • page: 89
  • “I sinned, my Claud, in wishing so to die.”
  • Then they, who oft in Love’s delicious bowers
  • Had fondly wasted glad and passionate hours,
  • Kissed with a mutual moan:—but o’er their lips
  • Love’s light passed clear, from under Life’s eclipse.
page: 91

THE LADY OF LA GARAYE.

A THRENODY.

  • HOW Memory haunts us! When we fain would be
  • Alone and free,
  • Uninterrupted by his mournful words,
  • Faint, indistinct, as are a wind‐harp’s chords
  • Hung on a leafless tree,—
  • He will not leave us: we resolve in vain
  • To chase him forth—for he returns again,
  • Pining incessantly!
  • In the old pathways of our lost delights
  • page: 92
  • He walks on sunny days and starlit nights,
  • Answering our restless moan,
  • With,—“I am here alone,
  • My brother Joy is gone—for ever gone!
  • Round your decaying home
  • The Spring indeed is come,
  • The leaves are thrilling with a sense of life,
  • The sap of flowers is rife,
  • But where is Joy, Heaven’s messenger,—bright Joy,—
  • That curled and radiant boy,
  • Who was the younger brother of my heart?
  • Why let ye him whom I so loved depart?
  • Call him once more,
  • And let us all be glad, as heretofore!”
  • Then, urged and stung by Memory, we go forth,
  • And wander south and north,
  • page: 93
  • Deeming Joy may yet answer to our yearning;
  • But all is blank and bare:
  • The silent air
  • Echoes no pleasant shout of his returning.
  • Yet somewhere—somewhere, by the pathless woods,
  • Or silver rippling floods,
  • He wanders as he wandered once with us;
  • Through bright arcades of cities populous;
  • Or else in deserts rude,
  • Happy in solitude,
  • And choosing only Youth to be his mate,
  • He leaves us to our fate.
  • We hear his distant laughter as we go,
  • Pacing, ourselves, with Woe,—
  • Both us he hath outstripped for evermore!
  • Seek him not in the wood,
  • page: 94
  • Where the sweet ring‐doves ever murmuring brood;
  • Nor on the hill, nor by the golden shore:
  • Others inherit that which once was ours;
  • The freshness of the hours,—
  • The sparkling of the early morning rime,
  • The evanescent glory of the time!
  • With them, in some sweet glade,
  • Warm with a summer shade,
  • Or where white clover, blooming fresh and wild,
  • Breathes like the kisses of a little child,
  • He lingers now:—we call him back in vain
  • To our world’s snow and rain;
  • The bower we built him when he was our guest
  • Life’s storms have beaten down,
  • And he far off hath flown,
  • And buildeth where there is a sunnier nest;
  • page: 95
  • Or, closing rainbow wings and laughing eyes,
  • He lieth basking ’neath the open skies,
  • Taking his rest
  • On the soft moss of some unbroken ground,
  • Where sobs did never sound.
  • Oh! give him up: confess that Joy has gone:
  • He met you at the source of Life’s bright river;
  • And if he hath passed on,
  • ’Tis that his task is done,
  • He hath no future message to deliver,
  • But leaves you lone and still for ever and for ever!
page: 97

THE LADY OF LA GARAYE.

PART III.

  • NEVER again! When first that sentence fell
  • From lips so loth the bitter truth to tell,
  • Death seemed the balance of its burdening care,
  • The only end of such a strange despair.
  • To live deformed; enfeebled; still to sigh
  • Through changeless days that o’er the heart go by
  • Colourless,—formless,—melting as they go
  • page: 98
  • Into a dull and unrecorded woe,—
  • Why strive for gladness in such dreary shade?
  • Why seek to feel less cheerless, less afraid?
  • What recks a little more or less of gloom,
  • When a continual darkness is our doom?
  • But custom, which, to unused eyes that dwell
  • Long in the blankness of a prison cell,
  • At length shows glimmerings through some ruined hole,—
  • Trains to endurance the imprisoned soul;
  • And teaching how with deepest gloom to cope,
  • Bids patience light her lamp, when sets the sun of hope.
  • And e’en like one who sinks to brief repose
  • Cumbered with mournfulness from many woes;
  • Who, restless dreaming, full of horror sleeps,
  • And with a worse than waking anguish weeps,
  • page: 99
  • Till in his dream some precipice appear
  • Which he must face, however great his fear:
  • Who stepping on those rocks, then feels them break
  • Beneath him,—and, with shrieks, leaps up awake;
  • And seeing but the grey unwelcome morn,
  • And feeling but the usual sense forlorn,
  • Of loss and dull remembrance of known grief,
  • Melts into tears that partly bring relief,
  • Because, though misery holds him, yet his dreams
  • More dreadful were than all around him seems:—
  • So, in the life grown real of loss and woe,
  • She woke to crippled days; which, sad and slow
  • And infinitely weary as they were,
  • At first, appeared less hard than fancy deemed, to bear.
  • page: 100
  • But as those days rolled on, of grinding pain,
  • Of wild untamed regrets, and yearnings vain,
  • Sad Gertrude grew to weep with restless tears
  • For all the vanished joys of blighted years.
  • And most she mourned with feverish piteous pining,
  • When o’er the land the summer sun was shining;
  • And all the volumes and the missals rare,
  • Which Claud had gathered with a tender care,
  • Seemed nothing to the book of nature, spread
  • Around her helpless feet and weary head.
  • Oh! woodland paths she ne’er again may see,
  • Oh! tossing branches of the forest tree,
  • Oh! loveliest banks in all the land of France,
  • Glassing your shadows in the silvery Rance;
  • Oh! river with your swift yet quiet tide,
  • page: 101
  • Specked with white sails that seem in dreams to glide;
  • Oh! ruddy orchards, basking on the hills,
  • Whose plenteous fruit the thirsty flagon fills;
  • And oh! ye winds, which, free and unconfined,
  • No sickness poisons, and no heart can bind,—
  • Restore her to enjoyment of the earth!
  • Echo again her songs of careless mirth,
  • Those little Breton songs so wildly sweet,
  • Fragments of music strange and incomplete,
  • Her small red mouth went warbling by the way
  • Through the glad roamings of her active day.
  • It may not be! Blighted are summer hours!
  • The bee goes booming through the plats of flowers,
  • The butterfly its tiny mate pursues
  • With rapid fluttering of its painted hues,
  • page: 102
  • The thin‐winged gnats their transient time employ
  • Reeling through sunbeams in a dance of joy,
  • The small field‐mouse with wide transparent ears
  • Comes softly forth, and softly disappears,
  • The dragon‐fly hangs glittering on the reed,
  • The spider swings across his filmy thread,
  • And gleaming fishes, darting to and fro,
  • Make restless silver in the pools below.
  • All these poor lives—these lives of small account,
  • Feel the ethereal thrill within them mount;
  • But the great human life,—the life Divine,—
  • Rests in dull torture, heavy and supine,
  • And the bird’s song, by Garaye’s walls of stone,
  • Crosses, within, the irrepressible moan!
  • The slow salt tears, half weakness and half grief,
  • That sting the eyes before they bring relief,
  • And which with weary lids she strives in vain
  • page: 103
  • To prison back upon her aching brain,
  • Fall down the lady’s cheek,—her heart is breaking:
  • A mournful sleep is hers; a hopeless waking;
  • And oft, in spite of Claud’s beloved rebuke,
  • When first the awful wish her spirit shook,—
  • She dreams of DEATH,—and of that quiet shore
  • In the far world where eyes shall weep no more,
  • And where the soundless feet of angels pass,
  • With floating lightness o’er the sea of glass.
  • Nor is she sole in gloom. Claud too hath lost
  • His power to soothe her,—all his thoughts are tost
  • As in a storm of sadness: shall he speak
  • To her, who lies so faint, and lone, and weak,
  • Of pleasant walks and rides? or yet describe
  • The merry sayings of that careless tribe
  • page: 104
  • Of friends and boon companions now unseen,—
  • Or the wild beauty of the forest green,—
  • Or daring feats and hair‐breadth ’scapes, which they
  • Who are not crippled, think a thing for play?
  • He dare not:—oft without apparent cause
  • He checks his speaking with a faltering pause;
  • Oft when she bids him, with a mournful smile,
  • By stories such as these the hour beguile,
  • And he obeys—only because she bids—
  • He sees the large tears welling ’neath the lids.
  • Or if a moment’s gaiety return
  • To his young heart that scarce can yet unlearn
  • Its habits of delight in all things round,
  • And he grows eager on some subject found
  • In their discourse, linked with the outward world,
  • page: 105
  • Till with a pleasant smile his lip is curled,—
  • Even with her love she smites him back to pain!
  • Upon his hand her tears and kisses rain;
  • And with a suffocated voice she cries,
  • “O Claud!—the old bright days!”
  • And then he sighs,
  • And with a wistful heart makes new endeavour
  • To cheer or to amuse;—and so for ever,
  • Till in his brain the grief he tries to cheat,
  • A dreary mill‐wheel circling seems to beat,
  • And drive out other thoughts—all thoughts but one:
  • That he and she are both alike undone,—
  • That better were their mutual fate, if when
  • That leap was taken in the fatal glen,
  • Both had been found, released from pain and dread,
  • page: 106
  • In the rough waters of the torrent’s bed,
  • And greeted pitying eyes, with calm smiles of the Dead!
  • A spell is on the efforts each would make,
  • With willing spirit, for the other’s sake:
  • Through some new path of thought he fain would move,—
  • And she her languid hours would fain employ,—
  • But bitter grows the sweetness of their love,—
  • And a lament lies under all their joy.
  • She, watches Claud,—bending above the page;
  • Thinks him grown pale, and wearying with his care;
  • And with a sigh his promise would engage
  • For happy exercise and summer air:
  • He, watches her, as sorrowful she lies,
  • And thinks she dreams of woman’s hope denied;
  • page: 107
  • Of the soft gladness of a young child’s eyes,
  • And pattering footsteps on the terrace wide,—
  • Where sunshine sleeps, as in a home for light,
  • And glittering peacocks make a rainbow show,—
  • But which seems sad, because that terrace bright
  • Must evermore remain as lone as now.
  • And either tries to hide the thoughts that wring
  • Their secret hearts; and both essay to bring
  • Some happy topic, some yet lingering dream,
  • Which they with cheerful words shall make their theme;
  • But fail,—and in their wistful eyes confess
  • All their words never own of hopelessness.
  • Was then DESPAIR the end of all this woe?
  • Far off the angel voices answer, No!
  • Devils despair, for they believe and tremble;
  • page: 108
  • But man believes and hopes. Our griefs resemble
  • Each other but in this. Grief comes from Heaven;
  • Each thinks his own the bitterest trial given;
  • Each wonders at the sorrows of his lot;
  • His neighbour’s sufferings presently forgot,
  • Though wide the difference which our eyes can see
  • Not only in grief’s kind, but its degree.
  • God grants to some, all joys for their possession,
  • Nor loss, nor cross, the favoured mortal mourns;
  • While some toil on, outside those bounds of blessing,
  • Whose weary feet for ever tread on thorns.
  • But over all our tears God’s rainbow bends;
  • To all our cries a pitying ear He lends;
  • Yea, to the feeble sound of man’s lament
  • How often have His messengers been sent!
  • page: 109
  • No barren glory circles round His throne,
  • By mercy’s errands were His angels known;
  • Where hearts were heavy, and where eyes were dim,
  • There did the brightness radiate from Him;
  • God’s pity,—clothed in an apparent form,—
  • Starred with a polar light the human storm,
  • Floated o’er tossing seas man’s sinking bark,
  • And for all dangers built one sheltering ark.
  • When a slave’s child lay dying, parched with thirst,
  • Till o’er the arid waste a fountain burst,—
  • When Abraham’s mournful hand upheld the knife
  • To smite the silver cord of Isaac’s life,—
  • When faithful Peter in his prison slept,—
  • When lions to the feet of Daniel crept,—
  • When the tried Three walked through the furnace glare,
  • page: 110
  • Believing God was with them, even there,—
  • When to Bethesda’s sunrise‐smitten wave
  • Poor trembling cripples crawl’d their limbs to lave;—
  • In all the various forms of human trial,
  • Brimming that cup, filled from a bitter vial,
  • Which even the suffering Christ with fainting cry
  • Under God’s will had shudderingly past by:—
  • To hunger, pain, and thirst, and human dread;
  • Imprisonment; sharp sorrow for the dead;
  • Deformed contraction; burdensome disease;
  • Humbling and fleshly ill!—to all of these
  • The shining messengers of comfort came,—
  • God’s angels,—healing in God’s holy name.
  • And when the crowning pity sent to earth
  • The Man of Sorrows, in mysterious birth;
  • page: 111
  • And the angelic tones with one accord
  • Made loving chorus to proclaim the Lord;
  • Was Isaac’s guardian there, and he who gave
  • Hagar the sight of that cool gushing wave?
  • Did the defender of the youthful Three,
  • And Peter’s usher, join that psalmody?
  • With him who at the dawn made healing sure,
  • Troubling the waters with a freshening cure;
  • And those, the elect, to whom the task was given
  • To offer solace to the Son of Heaven,
  • When,—mortal tremors by the Immortal felt,—
  • Pale, ’neath the Syrian olives, Jesu knelt,
  • Alone,—’midst sleeping followers warned in vain;
  • Alone with God’s compassion, and His pain!
  • Cease we to dream. Our thoughts are yet more dim
  • Than children’s are, who put their trust in Him.
  • page: 112
  • All that our wisdom knows, or ever can,
  • Is this: that God hath pity upon man;
  • And where His Spirit shines in Holy Writ,
  • The great word COMFORTER comes after it.
page: 113

THE LADY OF LA GARAYE.

PART IV.

  • SILENT old gateway! whose two columns stand
  • Like simple monuments on either hand;
  • No trellised iron‐work, with pleasant view
  • Of trim‐set flowery gardens shining through;
  • No bolts to bar unasked intruders out;
  • No well‐oiled hinge whose sound, like one low note
  • page: 114
  • Of music, tells the listening hearts that yearn,
  • Expectant of dear footsteps, where to turn;
  • No ponderous bell whose loud vociferous tone
  • Into the rose‐decked lodge hath echoing gone,
  • Bringing the porter forth with brief delay,
  • To spread those iron wings that check the way;
  • Nothing but ivy‐leaves, and crumbling stone;
  • Silent old gateway,—even thy life is gone!
  • But ere those columns, lost in ivvied shade,
  • Black on the midnight sky their forms portrayed;
  • And ere thy gate, by damp weeds overtopped,
  • Swayed from its rusty fastenings and then dropped,—
  • When it stood portal to a living home,
  • And saw the living faces go and come,
  • page: 115
  • What various minds, and in what various moods,
  • Crossed the fair paths of these sweet solitudes!
  • Old gateway, thou hast witnessed times of mirth,
  • When light the hunter’s gallop beat the earth;
  • When thy quick wakened echo could but know
  • Laughter and happy voices, and the flow
  • Of jocund spirits, when the pleasant sight
  • Of broidered dresses (careless youth’s delight,)
  • Trooped by at sunny morn, and back at falling night.
  • And thou hast witnessed triumph,—when the Bride
  • Passed through,—the stately Bridegroom at her side;
  • The village maidens scattering many a flower,
  • Bright as the bloom of living beauty’s dower,
  • With cheers and shouts that bid the soft tears rise
  • page: 116
  • Of joy exultant, in her downcast eyes.
  • And thou hadst gloom, when,—fallen from beauty’s state,—
  • Her mournful litter rustled through the gate,
  • And the wind waved its branches as she past,—
  • And the dishevelled curls around her cast,
  • Rose on that breeze and kissed, before they fell,
  • The iron scroll‐work with a wild farewell!
  • And thou hast heard sad dirges chanted low,
  • And sobbings loud from those who saw with woe
  • The feet borne forward by a funeral train,
  • Which homeward never might return again,
  • Nor in the silence of the frozen nights
  • Reclaim that dwelling and its lost delights;
  • But lowly lie, however wild love’s yearning,
  • The dust that clothed them, unto dust returning.
  • page: 117
  • Through thee, how often hath been borne away
  • Man’s share of dual life—the senseless clay!
  • Through thee how oft hath hastened, glad and bold,
  • God’s share—the eager spirit in that mould;
  • But neither life nor death hath left a trace
  • On the strange silence of that vacant place.
  • Not vacant in the day of which I write!
  • Then rose thy pillared columns fair and white;
  • Then floated out the odorous pleasant scent
  • Of cultured shrubs and flowers together blent,
  • And o’er the trim‐kept gravel’s tawny hue
  • Warm fell the shadows and the brightness too.
  • Count Claud is at the gate, but not alone:
  • Who is his friend?
  • They pass, and both are gone.
  • page: 118
  • Gone, by the bright warm path, to those sad halls
  • Where now his slackened step in sadness falls;
  • Sadness of every day and all day long,
  • Spite of the summer glow and wild bird’s song.
  • Who is that slow‐paced Priest to whom he bows
  • Courteous precedence, as he sighing shows
  • The oriel window where his Gertrude dwells,
  • And all her mournful story briefly tells?
  • Who is that friend whose hand with gentle clasp
  • Answers his own young agonizing grasp,
  • And looks upon his burst of passionate tears
  • With calmer grieving of maturer years?
  • Oh! well round that friend’s footsteps might be breathed
  • The blessing which the Italian poet wreathed
  • page: 119
  • Into a garland gay of graceful words,
  • As full of music as a lute’s low chords;
  • “Blessed be the year, the time, the day, the hour,”
  • When He passed through those gates, whose gentle power
  • Lifted with ministrant zeal the leaden grief,
  • Probed the soul’s festering wounds and brought relief,
  • And taught the sore vexed spirits where to find
  • Balm that could heal, and thoughts that cheered the mind.
  • Prior of Benedictines, did thy prayers
  • Bring down a blessing on them unawares,
  • While yet their faces were to thee unknown,
  • And thou wert kneeling in thy cell alone,
  • Where thy meek litanies went up to Heaven,
  • page: 120
  • That ALL who suffered might have comfort given,
  • And thy heart yearned for all thy fellow‐men,
  • Smitten with sorrows far beyond thy ken?
  • He sits by Gertrude’s couch, and patient listens
  • To her wild grieving voice;—his dark eye glistens
  • With tearful sympathy for that young wife,
  • Telling the torture of her broken life;
  • And when he answers her she seems to know
  • The peace of resting by a river’s flow.
  • Tender his words, and eloquently wise;
  • Mild the pure fervour of his watchful eyes;
  • Meek with serenity of constant prayer
  • The luminous forehead, high and broad and bare;
  • The thin mouth, though not passionless, yet still;
  • With a sweet calm that speaks an angel’s will,
  • Resolving service to his God’s behest,
  • And ever musing how to serve Him best.
  • page: 121
  • Not old, nor young; with manhood’s gentlest grace;
  • Pale to transparency the pensive face,
  • Pale not with sickness, but with studious thought,
  • The body tasked, the fine mind overwrought;
  • With something faint and fragile in the whole,
  • As though ’twere but a lamp to hold a soul.
  • Such was the friend who came to La Garaye,
  • And Claud and Gertrude lived to bless the day!
  • There is a love that hath not lover’s wooing,
  • Love’s wild caprices, nor love’s hot pursuing;
  • But yet a clinging and persistent love,
  • Tenderly binding, most unapt to rove;
  • As full of fervent and adoring dreams,
  • As the more gross and earthlier passion seems,
  • But far more single‐hearted; from its birth,
  • With humblest notions of unequal worth!
  • page: 122
  • Guided and guidable; with thankful trust;
  • Timid, lest all complaint should be unjust;
  • Circling,—a lesser orb,—around its star
  • With tributary love, that dare not war.
  • Such is the love which aged men inspire;
  • Priests, whose pure hearts are full of sacred fire;
  • And friends of dear friends dead,—whom trembling we admire.
  • A touch of mystery lights the rising morn
  • Of love for those who lived ere we were born;
  • Whose eyes the eyes of ancestors have seen;
  • Whose voice hath answered voices that have been;
  • Whose words show wisdom gleaned in days gone by,
  • As glory flushes from a sunset sky.
  • Our judgment leans upon them, feeling weak;
  • page: 123
  • Our hearts lift yearning towards them as they speak,
  • And silently we listen, lest we lose
  • Some teaching truth, and benefits refuse.
  • With such a love did Gertrude learn to greet
  • The gentle Prior; whose slow‐pacing feet
  • Each day of her sad life made welcome sound
  • Across the bright path of her garden ground.
  • And ere the golden summer past away,
  • And leaves were yellowing with a pale decay;
  • Ere, drenched by sweeping storms of autumn rain,
  • In turbulent billows lay the beaten grain;
  • Ere Breton orchards, ripening, turned to red
  • All the green freshness which the spring‐time shed,
  • Mocking the glory which the sunset fills
  • With stripes of crimson o’er the painted hills,—
  • page: 124
  • Her thoughts submitted to his thoughts’ control,
  • As ’twere an elder brother of her soul.
  • Well she remembered how that soul was stirred,
  • By the rebuking of his gentle word,
  • When in her faltering tones complaint was given,
  • “What had I done; to earn such fate from Heaven?”
  • “Oh, Lady! here thou liest, with all that wealth
  • Or love can do to cheer thee back to health;
  • With books that woo the fancies of thy brain,
  • To happier thoughts than brooding over pain;
  • With light, with flowers, with freshness, and with food,
  • Dainty and chosen, fit for sickly mood:
  • With easy couches for thy languid frame,
  • Bringing real rest, and not the empty name;
  • page: 125
  • And silent nights, and soothed and comforted days;
  • And Nature’s beauty spread before thy gaze:—
  • “What have the Poor done, who instead of these
  • Suffer in foulest rags each dire disease,
  • Creep on the earth, and lean against the stones,
  • When some disjointing torture racks their bones;
  • And groan and grope throughout the wearying night,
  • Denied the rich man’s easy luxury,—light?
  • What has the Babe done,—who, with tender eyes,
  • Blinks at the world a little while, and dies;
  • Having first stretched, in wild convulsive leaps,
  • His fragile limbs, which ceaseless suffering keeps
  • In ceaseless motion, till the hour when death
  • Clenches his little heart, and stops his breath?
  • What has the Idiot done, whose half‐formed soul
  • page: 126
  • Scarce knows the seasons as they onward roll;
  • Who flees with gibbering cries, and bleeding feet,
  • From idle boys who pelt him in the street!
  • What have the fair girls done, whose early bloom
  • Wasting like flowers that pierce some creviced tomb,
  • Plants that have only known a settled shade,
  • Lives that for others’ uses have been made,—
  • Toil on from morn to night, from night to morn,
  • For those chance pets of Fate, the wealthy born;
  • Bound not to murmur, and bound not to sin,
  • However bitter be the bread they win?
  • What hath the Slandered done, who vainly strives
  • To set his life among untarnished lives?
  • Whose bitter cry for justice only fills
  • The myriad echoes lost among life’s hills;
  • Who hears for evermore the self‐same lie
  • Clank clog‐like at his heel when he would try
  • page: 127
  • To climb above the loathly creeping things
  • Whose venom poisons, and whose fury stings,
  • And so slides back; for ever doomed to hear
  • The old witch, Malice, hiss with serpent leer
  • The old hard falsehood to the old bad end,
  • Helped, it may be, by some traducing friend,
  • Or one rocked with him on one mother’s breast,—
  • Learned in the art of where to smite him best.
  • “What we must suffer, proves not what was done:
  • So taught the God of Heaven’s anointed Son,
  • Touching the blind man’s eyes amid a crowd
  • Of ignorant seething hearts who cried aloud
  • The blind, or else his parents, had offended;
  • That was Man’s preaching; God that preaching mended.
  • But whatsoe’er we suffer, being still
  • Fixed and appointed by the heavenly will,
  • page: 128
  • Behoves us bear with patience as we may
  • The Potter’s moulding of our helpless clay.
  • Much, Lady, hath He taken, but He leaves
  • What outweighs all for which thy spirit grieves;
  • No greater gift lies even in God’s control
  • Than the large love that fills a human soul.
  • If taking that, He left thee all the rest,
  • Would not vain anguish angush wring thy pining breast?
  • If, taking all, that dear love yet remains,
  • Hath it not balm for all thy bitter pains?
  • “Oh, Lady! there are lonely deaths that make
  • The heart that thinks upon them burn and ache;
  • And such I witnessed on the purple shore
  • Where scorched Vesuvius rears his summit hoar,
  • And Joan’s gaunt palace, with its skull‐like eyes,
  • And barbarous and cruel memories,
  • For ever sees the blue wave lap its feet,
  • page: 129
  • And the white glancing of the fishers’ fleet.
  • The death of the FORSAKEN! lone he lies,
  • His sultry noon, fretted by slow black flies,
  • That settle on pale cheek and quivering brow
  • With a soft torment. The increasing glow
  • Brings the full shock of day; the hot air grows
  • Impure alike from action and repose;
  • Bruised fruit, and faded flowers, and dung and dust,
  • The rich man’s stew‐pan, and the beggar’s crust,
  • Poison the faint lips opening hot and dry,
  • Loathing the plague they breathe with gasping sigh,
  • The thick oppression of its stifling heat,
  • The busy murmur of the swarming street,
  • The roll of chariots and the rush of feet;
  • With the tormenting music’s nasal twang
  • Distorting melodies his loved ones sang!
  • page: 130
  • “Then comes a change—not silence, but less sound,
  • Less echo of hard footsteps on the ground,
  • Less rolling thunder of vociferous words,
  • As though the clang struck out in crashing chords
  • Fell into single notes, that promise rest
  • To the wild fever of the labouring breast.
  • “Last cometh on the night—the hot, bad night,
  • With less of all—of heat, of dust, of light;
  • And leaves him watching, with a helpless stare,—
  • The theme of no one’s hope and no one’s care!
  • The cresset lamp, that stands so grim and tall,
  • Widens and wavers on the upper wall;
  • And calming down from day’s perpetual storm
  • His thoughts’ dark chaos takes some certain form,
  • And he begins to pine for joys long lost,
  • Or hopes unrealized;—till bruised and tost
  • He sends his soul vain journeys through the gloom
  • page: 131
  • For radiant eyes that should have wept his doom.
  • Then clasps his hands in prayer, and for a time,
  • Gives aspirations unto things sublime:
  • But sinking to some speck of sorrow found,
  • Some point which, like a little festering wound,
  • Holds all his share of pain,—he gazes round,
  • Seeking some vanished form, some hand whose touch
  • Would almost cure him; and he yearns so much,
  • That passionate painful sobs his breathing choke,
  • And the thin bubble of his dream hath broke!
  • “So, still again; and all alone again;
  • Not even a vision present with his pain.
  • The hot real round him; the forsaken bed;
  • The tumbled pillow, and the restless head.
  • The drink so near his couch, and yet too far
  • For feeble hands to reach; the cold fine star
  • page: 132
  • That glitters through the unblinded window‐pane,
  • And with slow gliding leaves it blank again;
  • Till morning flushing through the world once more,
  • Brings the dull likeness of the day before,—
  • The first vague freshness of new wings unfurled,
  • As though Hope lighted, somewhere, in the world;
  • The heat of noon; the fading down of light;
  • The glimmering evening, and the restless night.
  • And then again the morning; and the noon;
  • The evening and the morning;—till a boon
  • Of double weakness sinks him, and he knows
  • One or two other days shall end his woes:
  • One or two mournful evenings, glimmering grey,
  • One or two hopeless risings of new day.
  • One or two noons too weak to brush off flies,
  • One or two nights of flickering feeble sighs,
  • One or two shivering breaks of helpless tears,
  • page: 133
  • One or two yearnings for forgotten years,—
  • And then the end of all, then the great change,
  • When the freed soul, let loose at length to range,
  • Leaves the imprisoning and imprisoned clay,
  • And soars far out of reach of sorrow and decay!”
  • Then Claud, who watched the faint and pitying flush
  • Tint her transparent cheek; with sudden gush
  • Of manly ardour, spoke of soldier deaths;
  • Of scattered slain who lay on cold bleak heaths:
  • Of prisoners pining for their native land
  • After the battle’s vain and desperate stand;
  • Brave hearts in dungeons,—rusting like their swords;
  • And wounded men,—midst whom the rifling hordes
  • Of spoil‐desiring searchers crept and smote,—
  • page: 134
  • Who vainly heard the rallying bugle’s note,
  • Or the quick march of their companions pass;
  • Sunk, dumb and dying, on the trampled grass.
  • Then also, the meek anxious Prior told
  • Of war’s worst horrors,—when in freezing cold,
  • Or in the torrid heat, men lay and groaned,
  • With none to hear or heed them when they moaned;
  • Or, with half‐help,—borne in a comrade’s arms
  • To where, all huddled up in feverish swarms,
  • The dying numbers mocked the scanty skill
  • Of wearied surgeons,—crowding, crowding still,
  • With different small degrees of lingering breath,
  • Asking for instant aid, or choked in death.
  • Order, and cleanliness, and thought, and care,
  • The hush of quiet, or the sound of prayer,
  • page: 135
  • These things were not:—nor, from the exhausted store,
  • Medicines and balms, to help the troubling sore;
  • Nor soft cool lint, like dew on parched‐up ground,
  • Clothing the weary, burning, festering wound;
  • Nor delicate linen; nor fresh cooling drinks
  • To woo the fever‐cracking lip which shrinks
  • Even from such solace; nor the presence blest
  • Of holy women watching broken rest,
  • And gliding past them through the wakeful night,
  • Like her whose Shadow made the soldier’s light.*
  • And as the three discoursed of things like these,
  • Sweet Gertrude felt her mind grow ill at ease.
  • The words of Claud,—that God took what was given
  • To teach their hearts to turn from earth to heaven;
  • The Prior’s words, of tender mild appeal,
  • page: 136
  • Teaching her how for others’ woes to feel;
  • Weighed on her heart; till all the past life seemed
  • Thankless and thoughtless: and the lady dreamed
  • Of succour to the helpless, and of deeds
  • Pious and merciful, whose beauty breeds
  • Good deeds in others, copying what is done,
  • And ending all by earnest thought begun.
  • Nor idly dreamed. Where once the shifting throng
  • Of merry playmates met, with dance and song,—
  • Long rows of simple beds the place proclaim
  • A Hospital, in all things but the name.
  • In that same castle where the lavish feast
  • Lay spread, that fatal night, for many a guest,
  • The sickly poor are fed! Beneath that porch
  • Where Claud shed tears that seemed the lids to scorch,
  • page: 137
  • Seeing her broken beauty carried by
  • Like a crushed flower that now has but to die,
  • The self‐same Claud now stands and helps to guide
  • Some ragged wretch to rest and warmth inside.
  • But most to those, the hopeless ones, on whom
  • Early or late her own sad spoken doom,
  • Hath been pronounced; the Incurables; she spends
  • Her lavish pity, and their couch attends.
  • Her home is made their home; her wealth their dole;
  • Her busy courtyard hears no more the roll
  • Of gilded vehicles, or pawing steeds,
  • But feeble steps of those whose bitter needs
  • Are their sole passport. Through that gateway press
  • All varying forms of sickness and distress,
  • page: 138
  • And many a poor worn face that hath not smiled
  • For years,—and many a feebled crippled child,—
  • Blesses the tall white portal where they stand,
  • And the dear Lady of the liberal hand.
  • Not in a day such happy change was brought;
  • Not in a day the works of mercy wrought:
  • But in God’s gradual time. As Winter’s chain
  • Melts from the earth and leaves it green again:
  • As the fresh bud a crimsoning beauty shows
  • From the black briars of a last year’s rose:
  • So the full season of her love matures,
  • And her one illness breeds a thousand cures.
  • Her soft eyes looking into other eyes,
  • Bleared, and defaced to blinding cavities,
  • Weary not in their task; nor turn away
  • With a sick loathing from their glimmering ray.
  • Her small white comforting hand,—no longer hid
  • page: 139
  • In pearl‐embroidered gauntlet,—lifts the lid
  • Outworn with labour in the bitter fields,
  • And with a tender skill some healing yields;
  • Bathes the swoln redness,—shades unwelcome light;—
  • And into morning turns their threatening night.
  • And Claud, her eager Claud, with fervent heart,
  • Earnest in all things, nobly does his part;
  • His high intelligence hath mastered much
  • That baffled science: with a surgeon’s touch
  • He treats,—himself,—the hurts from many a wound,
  • And, by deep study, novel cures hath found.
  • But good and frank and simple he remains,
  • Though a King’s notice lauds successful pains;
  • And, echoing through his grateful country, fame
  • Sends to far nations noble Garaye’s name.*
  • page: 140
  • Oh! loved and reverenced long that name shall be,
  • Though, crumbled on the soil of Brittany,
  • No stone, at last, of that pale Ruin shows
  • Where stood the gateway of his joys and woes.
  • For, in the Breton town, the good deeds done
  • Yield a fresh harvest still, from sire to son:
  • Still thrives the noble Hospital that gave
  • Shelter to those whom none from pain could save;
  • Still to the schools the ancient chiming clock
  • Calls the poor yeanlings of a simple flock:
  • Still the calm Refuge for the fallen and lost
  • (Whom love a blight and not a blessing crost,)
  • Sends out a voice to woo the grieving breast,—
  • Come unto me, ye weary, and find rest!
  • And still the gentle nurses,—vowed to give
  • Their aid to all who suffer and yet live,—
  • page: 141
  • Go forth in show‐white cap and sable gown,
  • Tending the sick and hungry in the town,
  • And show dim pictures on their quiet walls
  • Of those who dwelt in Garaye’s ruined halls!
page: 143

THE LADY OF LA GARAYE.

CONCLUSION.

  • PEACE to their ashes! Far away they lie,
  • Among their poor, beneath the equal sky.
  • Among their poor, who blessed them ere they went
  • For all the loving help and calm content.
  • Oh! happy beings, who have gone to hear
  • “Well done, ye faithful servants,” sounding clear;
  • page: 144
  • How easy all your virtues to admire;
  • How hard, alas! to copy and aspire.
  • Servant of God, well done! They serve God well
  • Who serve His creatures: when the funeral bell
  • Tolls for the dead, there’s nothing left of all
  • That decks the scutcheon and the velvet pall
  • Save this. The coronet is empty show:
  • The strength and loveliness are hid below:
  • The shifting wealth to others hath accrued:
  • And learning cheers not the grave’ solitude:
  • What’s DONE, is what remains! Ah, blessed they
  • Who leave completed tasks of love to stay
  • And answer mutely for them, being dead,
  • Life was not purposeless, though Life be fled.
  • page: 145
  • Even as I write, before me seem to rise,
  • Like stars in darkness, well remembered eyes
  • Whose light but lately shone on earth’s endeavour,
  • Now vanished from this troubled world for ever.
  • Oh! missed and mourned by many,—I being one,—
  • HERBERT, not vainly thy career was run;
  • Nor shall Death’s shadow, and the folding shroud,
  • Veil from the future years thy worth allowed.
  • Since all thy life thy single hope and aim
  • Was to do good,—not make thyself a name,—
  • ’Tis fit that by the good remaining yet,
  • Thy name be one men never can forget.
  • Oh! eyes I first knew in our mutual youth.
  • So full of limpid earnestness and truth;
  • Eyes I saw fading still, as day by day
  • page: 146
  • The body, not the spirit’s strength, gave way;
  • Eyes that I last saw lifting their farewell
  • To the now darkened windows where I dwell,—
  • And wondered, as I stood there sadly gazing,
  • If Death were brooding in their faint upraising;
  • If never more thy footstep light should cross
  • My threshold stone—but friends bewail thy loss,
  • And She bewidowed young, who lonely trains
  • Children that boast thy good blood in their veins;
  • Fair eyes,—your light was quenched while men still thought
  • To see those tasks to full perfection brought!
  • But GOOD is not a shapeless mass of stone,
  • Hewn by man’s hands and worked by him alone;
  • It is a seed God suffers One to sow,—
  • Many to reap; and when the harvests grow,
  • GOD giveth increase through all coming years,—
  • page: 147
  • And lets us reap in joy, seed that was sown in tears.
  • Brave heart! true soldier’s son; set at thy post,
  • Deserting not till life itself was lost;
  • Thou faithful sentinel for others’ weal,
  • Clad in a surer panoply than steel,
  • A resolute purpose,—sleep, as heroes sleep,—
  • Slain, but not conquered! We thy loss must weep,
  • And while our sight the mist of sorrow dims,
  • Feel all these comforting words die down like hymns
  • Hushed after service in cathedral walls;
  • But proudly on thy name thy country calls,
  • By thee raised higher than the highest place
  • Yet won by any of thy ancient race.
  • Be thy sons like thee! Sadly as I bend
  • page: 148
  • Above the page, I write thy name, lost friend!
  • With a friend’s name this brief book did begin,
  • And a friend’s name shall end it: names that win
  • Happy remembrance from the great and good;
  • Names that shall sink not in oblivion’s flood,
  • But with clear music, like a church‐bell’s chime,
  • Sound through the river’s sweep of onward rushing Time!
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