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On Brignall cliffs and Scargill brake
The owlet's homilies awake,
The bittern scream'd from rush and flag,
The raven slumber'd on his crag,
Forth from his den the otter drew,
Grayling and trout their tyrant knew,
As between reed and sedge he peers,
With fierce round snout and sharpen'd ears,'
Or, prowling by the moonbeam cool,
Watches the stream or swims the pool —
Perch’d on his wonted eyrie high,
Sleep seal'd the tercelet's wearied eye,
That all the day had watch'd so well
The cushat dart across the dell.
In dubious beam reflected shone
That lofty cliff of pale grey stone,
Beside whose base the secret cave
To rapine late a refuge gave.
The crags wild crest of copse and yew
‘On Greta's breast dark shadows threw;
Shadows that met or shunn'd the sight,
With every change of fitful light;
As hope and fear alternate chase
Our course through life's uncertain race.
Gliding by crag and copsewood green,
1 [The MS. has not this couplet.]
To trace with stealthy pace the wold,
Like fox that seeks the midnight fold,
And pauses oft, and cowers dismay’d,
At every breath that stirs the shade.
He passes now the ivy bush,_
The owl has seen him, and is hush ;
He passes now the dodder'd oak,+
Ye heard the startled raven croak ;
Lower and lower he descends,
Rustle the leaves, the brushwood bends;
The otter hears him tread the shore,
And dives, and is beheld no more ;
And by the cliff of pale grey stone
The midnight wanderer stands alone.
Methinks, that by the moon we trace
A well-remember'd form and face
That stripling shape, that check so pale,
Combine to tell a rueful tale,
Of powers misused, of passion's force,
Of guilt, of grief, and of remorse !
'Tis Edmund's eye, at every sound
That flings that guilty glance around;
'Tis Edmund's trembling haste divides
The brushwood that the cavern hides;
And, when its narrow porch lies bare,"
'Tis Edmund's form that enters there.
Fearful and quick his eye surveys Each angle of the gloomy maze. Since last he left that stern abode, It seem’d as none its floor had trod; Untouch'd appeared the various spoil. The purchase of his comrades' toil; Masks and disguises grimed with mud, Arms broken and defiled with blood, And all the nameless tools that aid Night-felons in their lawless trade, Upon the gloomy walls were hung, Or lay in nooks obscurely flung." Still on the sordid board appear The relics of the noontide cheer: Iolagons and emptied flasks were there,” And bench o'erthrown, and shatter'd chair; And all around the semblance show’d, As when the final revel glow’d, When the red sun was setting fast, And parting pledge Guy Denzil past. “To Rokeby treasure-vaults " they quaff'd, And shouted loud and wildly laugh'd, Pour'd maddening from the rocky door, And parted—to return no more!
They found in Rokeby vaults their doom,
A bloody death, a burning tomb
W. There his own peasant dress he spies, Doff’d to assume that quaint disguise; And shuddering thought upon his glee, When prank'd in garb of minstrelsy. “O, be the fatal art accurst,” He cried, “ that moved my folly first ; Till, bribed by bandits' base applause, I burst through God’s and Nature's laws Three summer days are scantly past Since I have trod this cavern last, A thoughtless wretch, and prompt to err– But, O, as yet no murderer! Even now I list my comrades' cheer, That general laugh is in mine ear, Which raised my pulse and steel'd my heart, As I rehearsed my treacherous part— And would that all since then could seem The phantom of a fever's dream | But fatal Memory notes too well The horrors of the dying yell, From my despairing mates that broke, When flash'd the fire and roll'd the smoke ; When the avengers shouting came, And hemm'd us 'twixt the sword and flame ! My frantic flight, the lifted brand,That angel's interposing hands –
If, for my life from slaughter freed,
I yet could pay some grateful meed
Perchance this object of my quest
May aid "-he turn'd, nor spoke the rest.
Due northward from the rugged hearth,
With paces five he metes the earth,
Then toil'd with mattock to explore
The entrails of the cavern floor,
Nor paused till, deep beneath the ground,
His search a small steel casket found.
Just as he stoop'd to loose its hasp,
His shoulder felt a giant grasp ;
He started, and look’d up aghast,
Then shriek'd ’Twas 13ertram held him fast,
“Fear not ' " he said ; but who could hear
That deep stern voice, and cease to fear 2
“Fear not –13y heaven, he shakes as much
As partridge in the falcon's clutch:”—
He raised him, and unloosed his hold,
While from the opening casket roll’d
A chain and reliquaire of gold."
Bertram beheld it with surprise,
Gazed on its fashion and device,
Then, cheering Edmund as he could,
Somewhat he smooth'd his rugged mood:
For still the youth's half-lifted eye
Quiver'd with terror's agony,
1 [MS.--——“carcanet of gold.”]