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But chief, 't were sweet to think such life (Though but escape from fortune's strife), Something most matchless, good, and wise, A great and grateful sacrifice; And deem each hour to musing given, A step upon the road to heaven.

Yet him whose heart is ill at ease Such peaceful solitudes displease : He loves to drown his bosom's jar Amid the elemental war: And my black Palmer's choice had been Some ruder and more savage scene, Like that which frowns round dark Lochskene. (6) There eagles scream from isle to shore; Down all the rocks the torrents roar; O'er the black waves incessant driven, Dark mists infect the summer heaven; Through the rude barriers of the lake, Away its hurrying waters break, Faster and whiter dash and curl, Till down yon dark abyss they hurl. Rises the fog-smoke white as snow, Thunders the viewless stream below, Diving as if condemn'd to lave Some demon's subterranean cave, Who, prison'd by enchanter's spell, Shakes the dark rock with groan and yell. And well that Palmer's form and mien Had suited with the stormy scene, Just on the edge, straining his ken To view the bottom of the den, Where, deep deep down, and far within, Toils with the rocks the roaring lion; Then, issuing forth one foamy wave, And wheeling round the Giant's Grave, White as the snowy charger's tail, Drives down the pass of Moffatdale.

The merry seamen laugh'd to see
Their gallant ship so lustily

Furrow the green sea foam.
Much joy'd they in their honour'd freight;
For, on the deck, in chair of state,
The Abbess of Saint Hilda placed,
With five fair nuns, the galley graced.

II. 'T was sweet to see these holy maids, Like birds escaped to green-wood shades,

Their first flight from the cage,
How timid, and how curious too,
For all to them was strange and new,
And all the common sights they view,

Their wonderment engage.
One eyed the shrouds and swelling sail

With many a benedicite ;
One at the rippling surge grew pale,

And would for terror pray;
Then shriek'd, because the sea-dog, nigh,
His round black head, and sparkling eye,

Reard o'er the foaming spray:
And one would still adjust her veil,
Disorder'd by the summer gale, -
Perchance lest some more worldly eye
Her dedicated charms might spy;
Perchance, because such action graced
Her fair-turn'd arm and slender waist.
Light was each simple bosom there,
Save two, who ill might pleasure share, -
The abbess, and the novice Clare.

III.
The abbess was of noble blood,
But early took the veil and hood,
Ere upon life she east a look,
Or knew the world that she forsook.
Fair too she was, and kind had been
As she was fair, but ne'er had seen
For her a timid lover sigh,
Nor knew the influence of her eye.
Love, to her ear, was but a name,
Combined with vanity and shåme;
Her hopes, her fears, her joys, were all
Bounded within the cloister wall:
The deadliest sin her mind could reach,
Was of monastic rule the breach;
And her ambition's highest aim
To emulate Saint Hilda's fame.
For this she gave her ample dower,
To raise the convent's eastern tower ;
For this, with carving rare and quaint,
She deck'd the chapel of the saint,
And gave the relique-shrine of cost,
With ivory and gems embost.
The poor her convent's bounty blest,
The pilgrim in its halls found rest.

Marriot, thy harp, on Isis strung, To many a Border theme has rung: Then list to me, and thou shalt know Of this mysterious Man of Woe.

CANTO II.

THE CONVENT.

I. Tre breeze, which swept away the smoke,

Round Norham Castle rollid,
When all the loud artillery spoke,
With lightning-flash, and thunder-stroke,

As Marmion left the hold.
It curl'd not Tweed alone that breeze,
For, far upon Northumbrian seas,

It freshly blew, and strong,
Where, from high Whitby's cloister'd pile,
Bound to Saint Cathbert's Holy Isle, ()

It bore a bark along.
Upon the gale she stoop'd her side,
And bounded o'er the swelling tide,

As she were dancing home ;

IV. Black was her garb, her rigid rule Reform'd on benedictine school; Her cheek waz pale, her form was spare ; Vigils, and penitence austere, Had early quench'd the light of youth, But gentle was the dame in sooth.

Though vain of her religious sway,
She loved to see her maids obey,
Yet nothing stern was she in cell,
And the nuns loved their abbess well.
Şad was this voyage to the dame;
Summond to Lindisfarn, she came,
There, with Saint Cuthbert's Abbot old,
And Tynemouth's Prioress, to hold
A chapter of Saint Benedict,
For inquisition stern and strict,
On two apostates from the faith,
And, if need were, to doom to death.

Monk-Wearmouth soon behind them lay,
And Tynemouth's priory and bay;
They mark'd, amid her trees, the hall
Of lofty Seaton-Delaval;
They saw the Blythe and Wansbeck floods
Rush to the sea through sounding woods;
They past ihe tower of Widderington,
Mother of many a valiant son;
At Coquet-isle their beads they tell
To the good saint who own'd the cell ;
Then did the Alne attention claim,
And Warkworth, proud of Percy's name;
And next, they crossd themselves, to hear
The whitening breakers sound so near,
Where, boiling through the rocks, they roar
On Dunstanborough's cavern'd shore;
Thy tower, proud Bamborough, mark'd they there;
King Ida's castle, huge and square,
From its tall rock look grimly down,
And on the swelling ocean frown;
Then from the coast they bore away,
And reach'd the Holy Island's bay.

V. Nought say I here of Sister Clare, Save this, that she was young and fair; As yet a novice unprofess'd, Lovely and gentle, but distress'd. She was betroth'd to one now dead, Or worse, who had dishonour'd fled. Her kinsmen bade her give her hand To one, who loved her' for her land: Herself, almost heart broken now, Was bent to take the vestal vow, And shroud, within Saint Hilda's gloom, Her blasted hopes and wither'd bloom.

VI. She sate upon the galley's prow, And seem'd to mark the waves below; Nay, seem'd so fix'd her look and eye, To count them as they glided by. She saw them not-'t was seeming allFar other scene her thoughts recal, A sun-scorch'd desert, waste and bare, Nor wave, nor breezes, murmur'd there; There saw she, where some careless hand O'er a dead corpse had heap'd the sand, To hide it till the jackalls come, To tear it from the scanty tomb.See what a woeful look was given, As she raised up her eyes to heaven.!

IX. The tide did now its flood-mark gain, And girdled in the saint's domain; For, with the flow and ebb, the stile Varies from continent to isle ; Dry-shod, o'er sands, twice every day, The pilgrims to the shrine find way; Twice every day, the waves efface Of staves and sandalld feet the trace. As to the port the galley flew, Higher and higher rose to view The castle with its battled wall, The ancient monastery's hall, A solemn, huge, and dark-red pile, Placed on the margin of the isle.

VII. Lovely, and gentle, and distress dThese charms might tame the fiercest breast: Harpers have sung, and poets told, That he, in fury uncontrollid, The shaggy monarch of the wood, Before a virgin, fair and good, Hath pacified his savage mood. But passions in the human frame Oft put the lion's rage to shame : And jealousy, by dark intrigue, With sordid avarice in league, Had practised, with liet bowl and knife, Against the mourner's harmless life. This crime was charged gainst those who lay Prison'd in Cuthbert's islet gray.

X.
In Saxon strength that abbey frown'd,
With massive arches broad and round,
That rose alternate row and row,
On ponderous columps, short and low,

Built ere the art was known,
By pointed aisle, and shafted stalk,
The arcades of an alley'd walk

To emulate in stone.
On the deep walls the heathen Dane
Had pour'd his impious rage in vain ;
And needful was such strength to these,
Exposed to the tempestuous seas,
Scourged by the winds' eternal sway,
Open to rovers fierce as they,
Which could twelve hundred years withstand
Winds, waves, and northern pirates' hand.
Not but that portions of the pile,
Rebuilded in a later stile,
Show'd where the spoiler's hand had been;
Not but the wasting sea-breeze keen
Had worn the pillar's carving quaint,
And moulder'd in his niche the saint,
And rounded, with consuming power,
The pointed angles of each tower :
Yet still entire the abbey stood,
Like veteran, wora, but unsubdued.

VIII. And now the vessel skirts the strand Of mountainous Northumberland; Towns, towers, and halls, successive rise, And catch the nuns' delighted eyes.

XI. Soon as they neard his turret strong, The maidens raised Saint Hilda's song, And with the sea-wave and the wind, Their voices, sweetly shrill, combined,

And made harmonious close ;
Then, answering from the sandy shore,
Half-drown'd amid the breakers' roar,

According chorus rose :
Down to the haven of the isle,
The monks and nuns in order file,

From Cuthberi's cloisters grim; Banner, and cross, and reliques there, To meet Saint Hilda's maids they bare ; And, as they caught the sounds on air,

They echoed back the hymn.
The islanders, in joyous mood,
Rush'd emulously through the flood,

To hale the bark to land;
Conspicuous by her veil and hood,
Signing the cross, the abbess stood,

And bless'd them with her hand.

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XIV. Nor did Saint Cuthbert's daughters fail To vie with these in holy tale ; His body's resting-place, of old, How oft their patron changed, they told; (11) How, when the rude Dane buro'd their pile, The monks fled forth from Holy Isle ; O'er northern mountain, marsh, and moor, From sea lo sea, from sliore to shore, Seven years Saint Cuthbert's corpse they bore. They rested them in fair Melrose ;

But though, alive, he loved it well,
Not there his reliques might repose;

For, wond'rous tale to tell !
In his stone coffin forth he rides
(A ponderous bark for river tides),
Yet light as gossamer it glides,

Downward to Tilmouth cell.
Nor long was liis abiding there,
For southward did the saint repair;
Chester-le-Street, and Rippon, saw
His holy corpse, ere Wardilaw

Hail'd him with joy and fear;
And, after many wanderings past,
He chose his lordly seat at last
Where his cathedral, huge and vast,

Looks down upon the Wear.
There, deep in Durham's Gothic shade,
His reliques are in secret laid;

But none may know the place,
Save of his holiest servants three,
Deep sworn to solemn secrecy,

Who share that wondrous grace.

XII.
Suppose we now the welcome said,
Suppose the convent banquet made ;

All through the holy dome,
Through cloister, aisle, and gallery,
Wherever vestal maid might pry,
Nor risk to meet uphallow'd

eye, The stranger sisters roam ; Till fell the evening damp with dew, And the sharp sea-breeze coldly blew, For there even summer night is chill. Then, having strayed and gazed their fill,

They closed around the fire;
And all, in turn, essay'd to paint
The rival merits of their saint,

A theme that ne'er can tire
A holy maid ; for, be it knowu,
That their saint's honour is their own.

XV. Who may his miracles declare ! Even Scotland's dauntless king, and heir

(Although with them they led Galwegians, wild as ocean's gale, And Lodon's knights, all sheathed in mail, And the bold men of Teviotdale),

Before his standard fled. (12) 'T was he, to vindicate his reign, Edged Alfred's falchion on the Dane, And turn'd the Conqueror back again, (13) When, with his Norman bowyer band, He came to waste Northumberland.

XIII,
Then Whitby's nuns exulting told,
How to their house three barons bold.

Must menial service do :(8)
While horns blow out a note of shame,
And monks cry, « Fye upon your name!
In wrath, for loss of sylvan game,

Saint Hilda's priest ye slew.»--
« This, on Ascension-day, each year,
While labouring on our harbour-pier,
Must Herbert, Bruce, and Percy hear.»
They told, how in their conveni-cell
A Saxon princess once did dwell,

The lovely Edelfled; (9)
And how, of thousand snakes, each one
Was changed into a coil of stone,

When holy Hilda pray'd.
Themselves within their holy bound,
Their stony folds had often found.
They told, how sea-fowls' pinions fail,
As over Whitby's towers they sail, (10)
And, sinking down, with flutterings faint,
They do their homage to the saint.

XVI. But fain Saint Hilda's nuns would learn, If, on a rock, by Lindisfarn, Saint Cuthbert sits, and toils to frame The sea-born beads that bear his name : (14). Such tales had Whitby's fishers told, And said they might his shape behold,

Aud hear his anvil sound; A deadend clang,-a huge dim form, Seen but, and heard, when gathering storm

And pight were closing round. But this, as tale of idle fame, The nups of Lindisfarn disclaim.

XVII. While round the fire such legends go, Far different was the scene of woe,

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Where, in a secret aisle beneath,
Council was held of life and death.
It was more dark and lone that vault,

Than the worst dungeon cell;
Old Colwulf (15) built it, for his fault

Io penitence to dwell,
When he, for cowl and beads, laid down
The Saxon battle-axe and crown.
This den, which, chilling every sense

Of feeling, hearing, sight,,
Was call'd the Vault of Penitence,

Excluding air and light,
Was, by the prelate Sexhelm, made
A place of burial for such dead,
As, having died in mortal sin,
Might not be laid the church within,
'T was now a place of punishment :
Whence if so loud a shriek were sent

As reach'd the upper air,
The hearers bless'd themselves and said,
The spirits of the sinful dead

Bemoan'd their torments there.

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And he, that ancient man, whose sight
Has long been quench'd by age's night,
Upon whose wrinkled brow alone,
Nor ruth, nor mercy's trace is shown,

Whose look is hard and stern,-
Saint Cuthbert's Abbot is his stile;
For sanctity call’d, through the isle,
The Saint of Lindisfarn.

XX.
Before them stood a guilty pair;
But, though an equal fate chey, share,
Yet one alone deserves our care.
Her sex a page's dress belied ;
The cloak and doublet, loosely tied,
Obscured her charms, but could not hide.
Her cap down o'er lier face she drew;

And, on her doublet-breast,
She tried to hide the badge of blue,

Lord Marmion's falcon crest.
But, at the prioress' command,
A monk undid the silken band,

That tied her tresses fair,
And raised the bonnet from her bead,
And down her slender form they spread,

Jo ringlets rich and rare.
Constance de Beverley they know,
Sister professid of Fontevraud,
Whom the church number'd with the dead,
For broken vows, and convent fled.

XVIII.
But though, in the monastic pile,
Did of this penitential aisle
Some vague

tradition go,
Few only, save the abbot, knew
Where the place lay; and still more few
Were those, who had from him the clew

To that dread vault to go. Victim and executioner Were blind-fold when transported there. In low dark rounds the arches hung, From the rude rock the side-walls sprung; The grave-stones, rudely sculplared o'er, Half sunk in earth, by time half wore, Were all the pavement of the floor; The mildew drops fell one by one, With tinkling plash, upon the stone. A cresset,' in an iron chain, Which served to light this drear domain, With damp and darkness seem'd to strive, As if it scarce mighat keep alive; And yet it dimly served to show The awful conclave met below.

XXI. When thus her face was given to view (Although so pallid was her hue, It did a ghastly contrast bear To those bright ringlets glistering fair), Her look composed, and steady eye, Respoke a matchless constancy. And there she stood, so calm and pale, That, but her breathing did not fail, And motion slight of eye and head, And of her bosom, warranted That neither sense nor pulse she lacks, You might have thought a form of wax, Wrought to the very life, was there: So still she was, so pale, so fair.

XIX.
There, met to doom in secrecy,
Were placed the beads of convents three;
All servants of Saint Benedict,
The statutes of whose order strict

On iron table lay;
In long black dress, on seats of stone,
Behind were these three judges shown,

By the pale cresset's ray:
The Abbess of Saint Hilda's, there,
Sate for a space with visage bare,
Until, to hide her bosom's swell,
And tear-drops that for pity fell,

She closely drew her veil ;
Yon shrouded figure, as I guess,
By her proud mien and tlowing dress,
Is Tynemouth's haughty Prioress; (16)

And she with awe looks pale :
Antique chandelier.

XXII.
Her comrade was a sordid soul,

Such as does murder for a meed; Who, but of fear, knows no controul, Because his conscience, seard and foul,

Feels not the import of his deed; One, whose brute feeling ne'er aspires Beyond his own more brute desires. Such tools the Tempter ever needs, To do the savagest of deeds; For them no vision'd terrors daunt, Their nights no fancied spectres haunt; One fear with them, of all most base, The fear of death,-alone finds place. This wretch was clad in frock and cowl, And shamed not loud lo moan and howl, His body on the floor to dash, And crouch, like hound beneath the lash; While his mute partner, standing near, Waited her doom without a tear.

Such high resolve and constancy,

In form so soft and fair.

XXIII. Yet well the luckless wretch might shriek, Well might her paleness terror speak; For there were seen in that dark wall Two niches, narrow, deep, and call; Who enters as such griesly door, Shall ne'er, I ween, find exit more. In each a slender meal was laid, Of roots, of water, and of bread: By each, in benedictine dress, Two haggard monks stood motionless; Who, holding high a blazing torch, Show'd the grim entrance of the porch : Retlecting back the smoky beam, The dark-red walls and arches gleam. Hewn stones and cement were display'd, And building-tools in order laid.

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 listend 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 forswore,
And Constance was beloved no more.--
"T is 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!

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,
Sirove, 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 stroye to own. By strange device were they brought there, They know not how, and knew not where.

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XXV.
And now that blind old abbot rose,

To speak the chapter's doom,
On those the wall was to inclose,

Alive, within the tomb : (17) But stopp d, because that woful 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, A tempest there you scarce could hear,

So massive were the walls.

XXVIII.
The king approved his favourite's aim;
In vain a rival barr'd his claim,

Whose faith 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.

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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 gather'd strength,

And arm'd herself to bear ;It was a fearful sight to see

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

The hated match to shun. * Ho! shifts she thus l' 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 monk, for gold, did swear, He would to Whitby's shrine repair,

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