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Unwittingly, King James had given,
As guard to Whitby's shades,
The man most dreaded under heaven
By these defenceless maids ;
Yet what petition could avail,
Or who would listen to the tale
Of woman, prisoner and nun,
Mid bustle of a war begun?
They deemed it hopeless to avoid
The convoy of their dangerous guide.
Their lodging, so the King assigned,
To Marmion's, as their guardian, joined; .
And thus it fell, that, passing nigh,
The Palmer caught the Abbess' eye,
Who warned him by a scroll.
She had a secret to reveal,
That much concerned the Church's weal,
And health of sinners' soul;
And, with deep charge of secrecy,
She named a place to meet,
Within an open balcony,
That hung from dizzy pitch, and high,
Above the stately street ;
To which, as common to each home,
At night they might in secret come.
At night, in secret, there they came,
The Palmer and the holy dame.
The moon among the clouds rode high,
And all the city hum was by.
Upon the street, where late before
Did din of war and warriors roar,"
You might have heard a pebble fall,
A beetle hum, a cricket sing,
An owlet flap his boding wing
On Giles's steeple tall.
The antique buildings, climbing high,
Whose Gothic frontlets sought the sky,
Were here wrapt deep in shade ;
There on their brows the moon-beam broke,
Through the faint wreaths of silvery smoke,
And on the casements played.
And other light was none to see,
Save torches gliding far,
Before some chieftain of degree,
Who left the royal revelry
To bowne him for the war
A solemn scene the Abbess chose ;
A solemn hour, her secret to disclose.
“ O, holy Palmer !” she began,-
“ For sure he must be sainted man,
Whose blessed feet have trod the ground
Where the Redeemer's tomb is found;
For his dear Church's sake, my tale Attend, nor deem of light avail, Though I must speak of worldly love, How vain to those who wed above ! De Wilton and Lord Marmion wooed Clara de Clare, of Gloster's blood; (Idle it were of Whitby's dame, To say of that same blood I came ;) And once, when jealous rage was high, Lord Marmion said despiteously, Wilton was traitor in his heart, And had made league with Martin Swart, * When he came here on Simnel's part; And only cowardice did restrain His rebel aid on Stokefield's plain,And down he threw his glove :-the thing Was tried, as wont, before the king;
Where frankly did De Wilton own,
That Swart in Guelders he had known;
And that between them then there went
Some scroll of courteous compliment.
For this he to his castle sent;
But when his messenger returned,
Judge how De Wilton's fury burned !
For in his packet there were laid
Letters that claimed disloyal aid,
And proved King Henry's cause betrayed.
His fame, thus blighted, in the field
He strove to clear, by spear and shield ;
To clear his fame in vain he strove,
For wonderous are His ways above !
Perchance some form was unobserved ;
Perchance in prayer, or faith, he swerved;
Else how could guiltless champion quail,
Or how the blessed ordeal fail ?