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Withering with age, branch'd there its naked roots, And there the melancholy cypress
49 Its head; the earth was heaved with many a mound, And here and there a half-demolish'd tomb.
And now, amid the ruin's darkest shade, The Virgin's eye beheld where pale blue flames Rose wavering, now just gleaming from the earth, And now in darkness drown'd. An aged man 55 Sate near, seated on what in long-past days Had been some sculptured monument, now fallen And half-obscured by moss, and gather'd heaps Of wither'd yew-leaves and earth-mouldering bones. His eye was large and rayless, and fix'd full 60 Upon the Maid; the tomb-fires on his face Shed a blue light; his face was of the hue Of death; his limbs were mantled in a shroud. Then with a deep heart-terrifying voice, Exclaim'd'the spectre, “ Welcome to these realms, These regions of Despair, O thou whose steps Sorrow hath guided to my sad abodes ! Welcome to my drear empire, to this gloom Eternal, to this everlasting night, Where never morning darts the enlivening ray, 70 Where never shines the sun, but all is dark, Dark as the bosom of their gloomy King."
So saying, he arose, and drawing on, Her to the abbey's inner ruin led, Resisting not his guidance. Through the roof 75 Once fretted and emblazed, but broken now In part, elsewhere all open to the sky,
The moon-beams enter'd, chequer'd here, and here
utilate, lay strewn upon the ground,
He dragg'd her on Through a low iron door, down broken stairs ; 90 Then a cold horror through the Maiden's frame Crept, for she stood amid a vault, and saw, By the sepulchral lamp's dim glaring light, The fragments of the dead.
“ Look here !” he cried, “ Damsel, look here! survey this house of death; O soon to tenant it; soon to increase
96 These trophies of mortality,.. for hence Is no return. Gaze here; behold this skull, These eyeless sockets, and these unflesh'd jaws, That with their ghastly grinning seem to mock 100 Thy perishable charms; for thus thy cheek Must moulder. Child of grief ! shrinks not thy soul, Viewing these horrors ? trembles not thy heart At the dread thought that here its life's-blood soon Shall stagnate, and the finely-fibred frame, 105 Now warm in life and feeling, mingle soon With the cold clod ? thing horrible to think, ..
Yet in thought only, for reality
So spake Despair.
The damp earth gave A dim sound as they pass'd: the tainted air Was cold, and heavy with unwholesome dews. 125 “ Behold !” the fiend exclaim'd, “ how loathsomely The fleshly remnant of mortality Moulders to clay !” then fixing his broad eye Full on her face, he pointed where a corpse Lay livid; she beheld with horrent look, 130 The spectacle abhorr'd by living man.
“Look here!" Despair pursued, “this loathsome
Was once as lovely, and as full of life
And where thou seest the pamper'd flesh-worm trail,
t'at the hallow'd altar, soon the priest Should bless her coming union, and the torch Its joyful lustre o'er the hall of joy,
“ Gaze on!” and unrelentingly he grasp'd
The Maid stood motionless, And, wistless what she did, with trembling hand Received the dagger. Starting then, she cried, “ Avaunt, Despair! Eternal Wisdom deals Or peace to man, or misery, for his good Alike design’d; and shall the creature cry, 170
Why hast thou done this ?' and with impious pride Destroy the life God gave?"
The fiend rejoin'd, “ And thou dost deem it impious to destroy The life God gave? What, Maiden, is the lot Assign'd to mortal man ? born but to drag, 175 Through life's long pilgrimage, the wearying load Of being ;, care-corroded at the heart; Assail’d by all the numerous train of ills That flesh inherits; till at length worn out, This is his consummation ! — Think again! 180 What, Maiden, canst thou hope from lengthen'd life, But lengthen'd sorrow? If protracted long, Till on the bed of death thy feeble limbs Stretch out their languid length, oh think what
thoughts, What agonizing feelings, in thạt hour,
185 Assail the sinking heart I -slow beats the pulse, Dim grows the eye, and clammy drops bedew The shuddering frame; then in its mightiest force, Mightiest in impotence, the love of life Seizes the throbbing heart; the faltering lips 190 Pour out the impious prayer that fain would change The Unchangeable's decree; surrounding friends Sob round the sufferer, wet his cheek with tears And all he loved in life embitters death. 194