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Such as in nunneries they toll
For some departing sister's soul ?
Say, what may this portend?”
Then first the Palmer silence broke
(The livelong day he had not spoke),
“ The death of a dear friend."
Marmion, whose steady heart and eye
Ne'er changed in worst extremity;
Marmion, whose soul could scantly brook,
Even from his King, a haughty look ;
Whose accent of command controlled
In camps the boldest of the bold
Thought, look, and utterance failed him now,
Fall’n was his glance, and flushed his brow;
For either in the tone,
Or something in the Palmer's look,
So full upon his conscience -strook,
That answer he found none.
Thus oft it haps, that when within
They shrink at sense of secret sin,
A feather daunts the brave;
A fool's wild speech confounds the wise,
And proudest princes vail their eyes
Before their meanest slave.
Well might he falter ! By his aid
Was Constance Beverley betrayed.
Not that he augured of the doom
Which on the living closed the tomb:
But, tired to hear the desperate maid
Threaten by turns, beseech, upbraid;
And wroth because in wild despair
She practised on the life of Clare;
Its fugitive the Church he gave,
Though not a victim, but a slave;
And deemed restraint in convent strange
Would hide her wrongs and her revenge.
Himself, proud Henry's favorite peer,
Held Romish thunders idle fear;
Secure his pardon he might hold
For some slight mulct of penance-gold.
Thus judging, he gave secret way,
When the stern priests surprised their prey.
His train but deemed the favorite page
Was left behind, to spare his age;
Or other if they deemed, none dared
To mutter what he thought and heard :
Woe to the vassal, who durst pry
Into Lord Marmion's privacy !
His conscience slept — he deemed her well,
And safe secured in distant cell;
But wakened by her favorite lay,
And that strange Palmer's boding say
That fell so ominous and drear,
Full on the object of his fear,
To aid remorse's venomed throes,
Dark tales of convent-vengeance rose;
And Constance, late betrayed and scorned,
All lovely on his soul returned ;
Lovely as when at treacherous call
She left her convent's peaceful wall,
Crimsoned with shame, with terror mute,
Dreading alike escape, pursuit,
Till love, victorious o'er alarms,
Hid fears and blushes in his arms.
“Alas!” he thought, “how changed that mien !
How changed these timid looks have been,
Since years of guilt and of disguise
Have steeled her brow, and armed her eyes !
No more of virgin terror speaks
The blood that mantles in her cheeks;
Fierce and unfeminine, are there,
Frenzy for joy, for grief despair;
And I the cause for whom were given
Her peace on earth, her hopes in heaven !-
Would,” thought he, as the picture grows,
* on its stalk had left the rose !
Oh, why should man's success remove
The very charms that wake his love!
Her convent's peaceful solitude
Is now a prison harsh and rude.
And, pent within the narrow cell,
How will her spirit chafe and swell!
How brook the stern monastic laws!
The penance how — and I the cause !
Vigil and scourge — perchance even worse !”
And twice he rose to cry, "To horse !” –
And twice his sovereign's mandate cam
Like damp upon a kindling flame;
And twice he thought, "Gave I not charge
She should be safe, though not at large ?
They durst not, for their island, shred
One golden ringlet from her head."
While thus in Marmion's bosom strove
Repentance and reviving love,
Like whirlwinds whose contending sway
I've seen Loch Vennachar obey,
Their Host the Palmer's speech had heard,
And, talkative, took up the word:
“Ay, reverend Pilgrim, you who stray
From Scotland's simple land away,
To visit realms afar,
Full often learn the art to know
Of future weal or future woe,
By word or sign or star;
Yet might a knight his fortune hear,
If, knight-like, he despises fear,
Not far from hence; — if fathers old
Aright our hamlet legend told."
These broken words the menials move
(For marvels still the vulgar love),
And, Marmion giving license cold,
His tale the host thus gladly told:
“A clerk could tell what years have flown Since Alexander filled our throne
(Third monarch of that warlike name),
And eke the time when here he came
To seek Sir Hugo, then our lord:
A braver never drew a sword;
A wiser never, at the hour
Of midnight spoke the word of power:
The same whom ancient records call
The founder of the Goblin-Hall.
I would, Sir Knight, your longer stay
that cavern to survey.
Of lofty roof and ample size,
Beneath the castle deep it lies :
To hew the living rock profound,
The floor to pave, the arch to round,
There never toiled a mortal arm,
It all was wrought by word and charm;
And I have heard my grandsire say,
That the wild clamor and affray
Of those dread artisans of hell,
Who labored under Hugo's spell,
Sounded as loud as ocean's war
Among the caverns of Dunbar.
“The King Lord Gifford's castle sought,
Deep laboring with uncertain thought.
Even then he mustered all his host,
To meet upon the western coast:
For Norse and Danish galleys plied
Their oars within the Firth of Clyde.
There floated Haco's banner trim,
Above Norweyan warriors grim,