ページの画像
PDF
ePub

Hewn stones and cement were display'd,
And building tools in order laid.

XXIV.

These executioners were chose,
As men who were with mankind foes,
And with despite and envy fired,
Into the cloister had retired ;

Or who, in desperate doubt of grace,
Strove, by deep penance, to efface

Of some foul crime the stain ;
For, as the vassals of her will,
Such men the Church selected still,
As either joy'd in doing ill,

Or thought more grace to gain,
If, in her cause, they wrestled down
Feelings their nature strove to own.
By strange device were they brought there,
They knew not how, nor knew not where.

XXV.

And now that blind old Abbot rose,

To speak the Chapter's doom,

1

It is well known, that the religious, who broke their vows of chastity, were subjected to the same penalty as the Roman vestals in a similar case. A small niche, sufficient to enclose their bodies, was made in the massive wall of the convent; a slender pittance of food and water was deposited in it, and the awful words, Vade in Pace, were the signal for immuring the criminal. It is not likely that, in latter times, this punishment was often resorted to; but, among the ruins of the Abbey of Coldingham, were some years ago discovered the remains of a female skeleton, which, from the shape of the niche, and position of the figure, seemed to be that of an immured nun. On those the wall was to enclose,

Alive, within the tomb; But stopp'd, because that woeful Maid, Gathering her powers, to speak essay’d, Twice she essay'd, and twice in vain ; Her accents might no utterance gain ; Nought but imperfect murmurs slip From her convulsed and quivering lip:

'Twixt each attempt all was so still, You seem'd to hear a distant rill

'Twas ocean's swells and falls; For though this vault of sin and fear Was to the sounding surge so near,

tempest there you scarce could hear, So massive were the walls.

XXVI.

At length, an effort sent apart
The blood that curdled to her heart,

And light came to her eye,
And colour dawn'd upon her cheek,
A hectic and a flutter'd streak,
Like that left on the Cheviot peak,

By Autumn's stormy sky;
And when her silence broke at length,
Still as she spoke she gathered strength,

And arm'd herself to bear.
It was a fearful sight to see
Such high resolve and constancy,

In form so soft and fair.

XXVII.

" I speak not to implore your grace,
Well know I, for one minute's space

Successless might I sue :
Nor do I speak your prayers to gain :
For if a death of lingering pain,
To cleanse my sins, be penance vain,

Vain are your masses too.-
I listen'd to a traitor's tale,
I left the convent and the veil ;
For three long years I bow'd my pride,
A horse-boy in his train to ride;
And well my folly's meed he gave,
Who forfeited, to be his slave,
All here, and all beyond the grave.-
He saw young Clara's face more fair,
He knew her of broad lands the heir,
Forgot his vows, his faith foreswore,
And Constance was beloved no more.-
'Tis an old tale, and often told ;

But did my fate and wish agree,
Ne'er had been read, in story old,
Of maiden true betray'd for gold,

That loved, or was avenged, like me!

XXVIII.

" The King approved his favourite's aim; In vain a rival barr'd his claim,

Whose fate with Clare's was plight, For he attaints that rival's fame

With treason's charge--and on they came,
In mortal lists to fight.

Their oaths are said,
Their prayers are pray'd,

Their lances in the rest are laid,
They meet in mortal shock ;
And hark! the throng, with thundering cry,
Shout · Marmion, Marmion! to the sky,

De Wilton to the block !'
Say ye, who preach Heaven shall decide
When in the lists two champions ride,

Say, was Heaven's justice here?
When, loyal in his love and faith,
Wilton found overthrow or death,

Beneath a traitor's spear? How false the charge, how true he fell, This guilty packet best can tell.-Then drew a packet from her breast, Paused, gather'd voice, and spoke the rest.

XXIX.

“ Still was false Marmion's bridal staid ; To Whitby's convent fled the maid,

The hated match to shun. • Ho! shifts she thus ?' King Henry cried, Sir Marmion, she shall be thy bride,

If she were sworn a nun.' One way remain'd-the King's command Sent Marmion to the Scottish land : I linger'd here, and rescue plann'd

For Clara and for me :

This caitiff Mónk, for gold, did swear,
He would to Whitby's shrine repair,
And, by his drugs, my rival fair

A saint in heaven should be.
But ill the dastard kept his oath,
Whose cowardice has undone us both.

XXX.

“ And now my tongue the secret tells,

Not that remorse my bosom swells,
But to assure my soul that none
Shall ever wed with Marmion.
Had fortune my last hope betray'd,
This packet, to the King convey’d,
Had given him to the headsman's stroke,
Although my heart that instant broke.
Now, men of death, work forth your will,
For I can suffer, and be still ;
And come he slow, or come he fast,
It is but Death who comes at last.

XXXI.

* Yet dread me, from my living tomb,

Ye vassal slaves of bloody Rome!
If Marmion's late remorse should wake,
Full soon such vengeance will he take,
That you shall wish the fiery Dane
Had rather been your guest again.
Behind, a darker hour ascends!
The altars quake, the crosier bends,
The ire of a despotic King

« 前へ次へ »