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Four Maidens stood, whose crimson vest
Was bound with golden zone.
35. Of Europe seemed the damsels all ;
The first a nymph of lively Gaul,
Whose easy step and laughing eye
Her borrowed air of awe belie;
The next a maid of Spain,
Dark-eyed, dark-haired, sedate, yet bold;
While ivory skin and tress of gold,
Her shy and bashful comrade told
For daughter of Almaine.
These Maidens bore a royal robe,
With crown, with sceptre, and with globe,
Emblems of empery:
The fourth a space behind them stood,
And leant upon a harp, in mood
Of minstrel ecstasy.
Of merry England she, in dress
Like ancient British Druidess;
Her hair an azure fillet bound,
Her graceful vesture swept the ground,
And, in her hand displayed,
A crown did that fourth Naiden hold,
But unadorned with gems and gold,
Of glossy laurel made.
36, At once to brave De Vaux knelt down
. These foremost Maidens three,
And proffered scepire, robe, and crown,
Liegedom and seignorie
O’er many a region wide and fair,
Destined, they said, for Arthur's heir ;
But homage would he none.
“Rather,” he said, “De Vaux would ride,
A Warden of the Border-side,
In plate and mail, than, robed in pride,
A monarch's empire own ;
Rather, far rather, would he be
A free-bor: Knight of England free,
Than sit on Despot's throne.”
So passed he on, when that fourth Naid,
As starting from a trance,
Upon the harp her fingers laid ;
Her magic touch the chords olcyed,
Their soul awaked at once!
Song or THE FOURTH MAIDEN.
“ Quake to your foundations deep,
Stately Towers, and bannered Keep!
Bid your vaulted echoes moan,
As the dreaded step they own.
“Fiends! that wait on Merlin's spell,
Hear the foot-fall ! mark it well !
Spread your dusky wings abroad,
Boune ye for your homeward road !
“It is IIis, the first who e'er
Dared the dismal Hall of Fear ;
Hrs, who hath the snares defied
Spread by Pleasure, Wealth, and Pride.
“Quake to your foundations deep,
Bastion huge, and Turret steep!
Tremble Keep, and totter Tower !
This is Gyneth's waking hour.”-37. Thus while she sing, the venturous Knight Has reached a bower, where milder light
Through crimson curtains fell ;
Such softened shade the hill receives,
Her purple veil when twilight leaves
Upon its western swell.
That bower, the gazer to bewitch,
Hath wondrous store of rare and rich
As e'er was seen with eye;
For there by magic skill, I wis,
Form of each thing that living is
Was limned in proper dye.
All seemed to sleep-the timid hare
On form, the stag upon his lair,
The eagle in her eyrie fair
Between the earth and sky.
But what of pictured rich and rare
Could win De Vaux's eye-glance, where,
Deep slumbering in the fatal chair,
He saw King Arthur's child !
Doubt, and anger, and dismay,
From her brow had passed away,
Forgot was that fell tourney-day,
For, as she slept, she smiled.
It seemed that the repentant Seer
Her sleep of many a hundred year
With gentle dreams beguiled. 38. That form of maiden loveliness,
'Twixt childhood and 'twixt youth.
That ivory chair, that sylvan dress,
The arms and ankles bare, express
Of Lyulph's tale the truth.
Still upon her garment's hemo
Vanoc's blood made purple gem,
And the warder of command
Cumbered still her sleeping hand;
Still her dark locks dishevelled flow
From net of pearl c'er breast of snow;
And so fair the slumberer seems
That De Vaux impeached his dreams,
Vapid all and void of might,
Hiding half her charms from sight.
Motionless awhile he stands,
Folds his arms and clasps his hands,
Trembling in his fitful joy,
Doubtful how he shall destroy
Doubtful too, when slowly rise
Dark-fringed lids of Gyneth's eyes
What these eyes shall tell.
“St George! St Mary! can it be,
That they will kindly look on me!” 39. Gently, lo! the Warrior kneels,
Soft that lovely hand he steals,
Soft to kiss, and soft to clasp-
But the warder leaves her grasp ;
Lightning flashes, rolls the thunder!
Gyneth startles from her sleep,
Totters tower, and trembles keep,
Burst the Castle walls asunder!
Fierce and frequent were the shocks,
Melt the magic halls away,
But beneath their mystic rocks,
In the arms of bold De Vaux,
Safe the Princess lay!
Safe and free from magic power.
Blushing like the rose's flower
Opening to the day;
And round the Champion's brows were bound
The crown that Druidess had wound,
Of the green laurel-bay.
And this was what remained of all
The wealth of each enchanted hall,
The Garland and the Dame :-
But where should Warrior seek the meel
Due to high worth for daring deed,
Except from Love and FAME!
CONCLUSION. 1. My Lucy, when the maid is won, The Minstrel's task, thou know'st, is done ;
And to require of bard
That to the dregs his tale should run,
Were ordinance too hard.
Our lovers, briefly be it said,
Wedded as lovers wont to wed,
When tale or play is o’er;
Lived long and blessed, loved fond and true,
And saw a numerous race renew
The honours that they bore.
Know, too, that when a pilgrim strays,
In morning mist or evening maze,
Along the mountain lone,
That fairy fortress osten mocks
His gaze upon the castled rocks
Of the Valley of Saint John ;
But never man since brave De Vauy.
The charmed portal won:
'Tis now a vain illusive show,
That melts whene'er the sunbeams glow.
Or the fresh breeze hath blown.
2. But see, my love, where far below
Our lingering wheels are moving slow,
The whiles up-gazing still
Our menials eye our steepy way,
Marvelling, perchance, what whim can stay
Our steps when eve is sinking gray
On this gigantic hill.
So think the vulgar-Life and time
Ring all their joys in one dull chime
Of luxury and ease;
And O! beside these simple knaves,
How many better born are slaves
To such coarse joys as these ;
Dead to the nobler sense that glows
When Nature's grander scenes unclose.
But, Lucy, we will love them yet,
The mountain's misty coronet,
The greenwood, and the wold ;
And love the more, that of their maze
Adventure high of other days
By ancient bards is told,
Bringing, perchance, like my poor tale,
Some moral truth in fiction's veil:
Nor love them less, that o'er the hill
The evening breeze, as now, comes chill ;--
My love shall wrap her warm, And, fearless of the slippery way, While safe she trips the heathy brae,
Shall hang on Arthur's arm.
THE LORD OF THE ISLES.
A POEM. IN SIX CANTOS.
FIRST PUBLISHED JANUARY 2, 1815.
ADVERTISEMENT. The Scene of this Poem lies, at first, in the Castle of Artornish, on the coast of Argyleshire ; and, afterwards, in the Islands of Skye and Arran, and upon the coast of Ayrshire. Finally, it is laid near Stirling. The story opens in the spring of the year 1307, when Bruce, who had been driven out of Scotland by the English, and the Barons who adhered to that foreign interest, returned from the Island of Rachrin, on the coast of Ireland, again to assert his claims to the Scottish crown. Many of the personages and incidents introduced are of historical celebrity. The authorities used are chiefly those of the venerable Lord Hailes, as well entitled to be called the restorer of Scottish history, as Bruce the restorer of Scottish monarchy; and of Archdeacon Barbour, a correct edition of whose Metrical History of Robert Bruce will soon, I trust, appear under the care of my learned friend, the Rev. Dr Jamieson.
ABBOTSFORD, 10th December, 1814.
AUTUMN departs--but still his mantle's fold
Rests on the groves of noble Somerville;
Beneath a shroud of russet dropped with gold
Tweed and his tributaries mingle still ;
Hoarser the wind, and deeper sounds the rill,
Yet lingering notes of sylvan music swell,
The deep-toned cushat, and the red breast shrill;
And yet some tints of summer splendour tell
When the broad sun sinks down on Ettricke's western fell.
Autumn departs—from Gala's fields no more
Come rural sounds our kindred banks to cheer;
Blent with the stream, and gale that wafts it o'er,
No more the distant reapers' mirth we hear.
The last blithe shout hath died upon our ear,
And harvest-home hath-hushed the clanging wain,
On the waste hill no forms of life appear,
Save where, sad laggard of the autumnal train,
Some age-struck wanderer gleans few ears of scattered grain.
Deem'st thou these saddened scenes have pleasure still,
Lovest thou through Autumn's fading realms to stray,