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The Lady of La Garaye. Norton, Caroline Sheridan, 1808–1877.
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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,
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  • 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;
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  • 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
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  • 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:
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  • 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;
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  • 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;
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  • 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!
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  • 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,
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  • 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—
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  • 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!
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