Rokeby, by Walter Scott

Canto First.

I.

THE Moon is in her summer glow,

But hoarse and high the breezes blow.

And, racking o’er her face, the cloud

Varies the tincture of her shroud;

On Barnard’s towers, and Tees’s stream.

She changes as a guilty dream.

When Conscience, with remorse and fear.

Goads sleeping Fancy’s wild career.

Her light seeni’d now the blush of shame,

Seem’d now fierce anger’s darker flame,

Shifting that shade to come and go,

Like apprehension’s hurried glow;

Then sorrow’s livery dims the air.

And dies in darkness, like despair.

Such varied hues the warder sees

Reflected from the woodland Tees,

Then from old Baliol’s tower looks forth,

Sees the clouds mustering in the north,

Hears, upon turret-roof and wall,

By fits the plashing rain-drop fall,

Lists to the breeze’s boding sound,

And wraps his shaggy mantle round.

ii.

Those towers, which in the changeful gleam

Throw mm’ky shadows on the stream,

Those towers of Barnard hold a guest,

The emotions of whose troubled breast,

In wild and strange confusion driven.

Rival the flitting rack of heaven.

Ere sleep stern Oswald’s senses tied,

Oft had he changed his weary side,

Composed his limbs, and vainly sought

By effort strong to banish thought.

Sleep came at length, but with a train

Of feelings real and fancies vain,

Mingling, in wild disorder cast.

The expected future with the past.

Conscience, anticipating time,

Already rues the unacted crime,

And calls her furies forth, to shake

The sounding scourge and hissing snake;

While her poor victim’s outward throes

Bear witness to his mental woes.

And shew what lesson may be read

Beside a sinner’s restless bed,

iii.

Thus Oswald’s labouring feelings trace

Strange changes in his sleeping face.

Rapid and ominous as these

With which the moon-beams tinge the Tees.

There might be seen of shame the blush.

There anger’s dark and fiercer flush,

While the perturbed sleeper’s hand

Seem’d grasping dagger-knife, or brand.

Relax’d that grasp, the heavy sigh,

The tear in the half-opening eye.

The pallid cheek and brow, confessed

That grief was busy in his breast;

Nor paused that mood — a sudden start

Impelled the life-blood from the heart;

Features convulsed, and mutterings dread,

Show terror reigns in sorrow’s stead;

That pang the painful slumber broke,

And Oswald with a start awoke.

iv.

He woke, and feared again to close

His eyelids in such dire repose;

He woke, — to watch the lamp, and tell

From hour to hour the castle-bell,

Or listen to the owlet’s cry.

Or the sad breeze that whistles by.

Or catch, by fits, the tuneless rhyme

With which the warder cheats the time.

And envying think, how, when the sun

Bids the poor soldier’s watch be done,

Couch’d on his straw, and fancy-free.

He sleeps like careless infancy.

V.

Far town-ward sounds a distant tread,

And Oswald, starting from his bed,

Hath caught it, though no human ear,

Unsharpen’d by revenge and fear,

Could e’er distinguish horse’s clank,

Until it reached the castle-bank.

Now nigh and plain the sound appears,

The warder’s challenge now he hears.

Then clanking chains and levers tell.

That o’er the moat the drawbridge fell,

And, in the castle-court below,

Voices are heard, and torches glow,

As marshalling the stranger’s way

Straight for the room where Oswald lay;

The cry was, — “Tidings from the host,

Of weight — a messenger comes post.” —

Stifling the tumult of his breast,

His answer Oswald thus expressed —

“Bring food and wine, and trim the fire;

Admit the stranger, and retire.”—

vi.

The stranger came with heavy stride.

The morion’s plumes his visage hide.

And the buff coat, in ample fold,

Mantles his form’s gigantic mould.

Full slender answer deigned he

To Oswald’s anxious courtesy,

But marked, by a disdainful smile.

He saw and scorned the petty wile,

When Oswald changed the torch’s place,

Anxious that on the soldier’s face

Its partial lustre might be thrown.

To shew his looks, yet hide his own.

His guest, the while, laid slow aside

The ponderous cloak of tough bull’s hide,

And to the torch glanced broad and clear

The corslet of a cuirassier;

Then from his brows the casque he drew,

And from the dank plume dashed the dew,

From gloves of mail relieved his hands.

And spread them to the kindling brands,

And, turning to the genial board,

Without a health, or pledge, or word

Of meet and social reverence said.

Deeply he drank, and fiercely fed;

As free from ceremony’s sway,

As famished wolf that tears his prey.

vii.

With deep impatience, tinged with fear,

His host beheld him gorge his cheer,

And quaff the full carouze that lent

His brow a fiercer hardiment.

Now Oswald stood a space aside,

Now paced the room with hasty stride,

In feverish agony to learn

Tidings of deep and dread concern.

Cursing each moment that his guest

Protracted o’er his ruffian feast.

Yet, viewing with alarm, at last,

The end of that uncouth repast,

Almost he seemed their haste to rue,

As, at his sign, his train withdrew,

And left him with the stranger, free

To question of his mystery.

Then did his silence long proclaim

A struggle between fear and shame.

viii.

Much in the stranger s mien appears.

To justify suspicious fears.

On his dark face a scorching cHme,

And toil, had done the work of time,

Roughened the brow, the temples bared.

And sable hairs with silver shared,

Yet left — what age alone could tame —

The lip of pride, the eye of flame.

The full-drawn lip that upward curled,

The eye, that seemed to scorn the world.

That lip had terror never blanched;

Ne’er in that eye had,, tear-drop quenched

The flash severe of swarthy glow.

That mocked at pain, and knew not woe;

Inured to danger s direst form,

Tornade and earthquake, flood and storm,

Death had he seen by sudden blow,

By wasting plague, by tortures slow,

By mine or breach, by steel or ball.

Knew all his shapes, and scorned them all.

ix.

But yet, though Bertram’s hardened look.

Unmoved, could blood and danger brook,

Still worse than apathy had place

On his swart brow and callous face;

For evil passions, cherished long.

Had ploughed them with impressions strong.

All that gives gloss to sin, all gay

Light folly, past with youth away,

But rooted stood, in manhood’s hour.

The weeds of vice without their flower.

And yet the soil in which they grew.

Had it been tamed when life was new,

Had depth and vigour to bring forth

The hardier fruits of virtuous worth.

Not that, e’en then, his heart had known

The gentler feehngs’ kindly tone;

But lavish waste had been refined

To bounty in his chastened mind,

And lust of gold, that waste to feed,

Been lost in love of glory’s meed,

And, frantic then no more, his pride

Had ta’en fair virtue for its guide.

X.

Even now, by conscience unrestrained,

Clogged by gross vice, by slaughter stained.

Still knew his daring soul to soar,

And mastery o’er the mind he bore;

For meaner guilt, or heart less hard,

Quailed beneath Bertram’s bold regard.

And this felt Oswald, while in vain

He strove, by many a winding* train,

To Inre his snllen guest to show,

Unasked, the news he longed to know,

While on far other subject hung

His heart, than faultered from his tongue.

Yet nought for that his guest did deign

To note or spare his secret pain,

But still, in stern and stubborn sort,

Returned him answer dark and short,

Or started from the theme, to range

In loose digression wild and strange,

And forced the embarrassed host to buy.

By query close, direct reply.

xi.

Awhile he glozed upon the cause

Of Commons, Covenant, and Laws,

And Church reformed — but fek rebuke

Beneath grim Bertram’s sneering look.

Then stammered — “Has a field been fought?

Has Bertram news of battle brought?

For sure a soldier, famed so far

In foreimi fields for feats of war,

On eve of fight ne’er left the host,

Until the field were won or lost.” —

“Here, in your towers by circling Tees,

You, Oswald Wycliff, rest at ease;

Why deem it strange that others come

To share such safe and easy home,

From fields where danger, death, and toil,

Are the reward of civil broil?” —

— “Nay, mock not, friend! — since well we know

The near advances of the foe,

To mar our northern army’s work,

Encamped before beleaguered York;

Thy horse with vahant Fairfax lay,

And must have fought — how went the day?”

xii.

“Wouldst hear the tale? — On Marston heath

Met, front to front, the ranks of death;

Flourished the trumpets fierce, and now

Fired was each eye, and flushed each brow;

On either side loud clamours ring,

“God and the Cause! — God and the King!”

Right English all, they rushed to blows.

With nought to win, and all to lose.

I could have laughed — but lacked the time —

To see, m phrenesy sublime.

How the fierce zealots fought and bled.

For king or state, as humour led;

Some for a dream of public good.

Some for church-tippet, gown, and hood,

Draining their veins, in death to claim

A patriot’s or a martyr s name. —

Led Bertram Risingham the hearts,

That countered there on adverse parts,

No superstitious fool had I

Sought El Dorados in the sky!

Chili had heard me through her states.

And Lima oped her silver gates,

Rich Mexico I had marched through,

And sacked the splendours of Peru,

Till sunk Pizarro’s daring name,

And, Cortez, thine, in Bertram’s fame.”

“Still from the purpose wilt thou stray!

Good gentle friend, how went the day?”

xiii.

“Good am I deemed at trumpet-sound.

And good where goblets dance the round,

Though gentle ne’er was joined, till now,

With rugged Bertram’s breast and brow. —

But I resume. The battle’s rage

Was like the strife which currents wage.

Where Orinoco, in his pride,

Rolls to the main no tribute tide,

But ‘gainst broad ocean urges far

A rival sea of roaring war;

While, in ten thousand eddies driven,

The billows fling their foam to heaven,

And the pale pilot seeks in vain,

Where rolls the river, where the main.

Even thus, upon the bloody field.

The eddying tides of conflict wheeled

Ambiguous, till that heart of flame.

Hot Rupert, on our squadrons came.

Hurling against our spears a line

Of gallants, fiery as their wine;

Then ours, though stubborn in their zeal,

In zeal’s despite began to reel.

What wouldst thou more? — in tumult tost,

Our leaders fell, our ranks were lost.

A thousand men, who drew the sword

For both the Houses and the Word,

Preached forth from hamlet, grange, and down.

To curb the crosier and the crown,

Now, stark and stiff, lie stretched in gore,

And ne’er shall rail at mitre more. —

Thus fared it, when I left the fight.

With the good Cause and Commons’ right.” —

xiv.

“Disastrous news!” dark Wycliffe said;

Assumed despondence bent his head.

While troubled joy was in his eye.

The well-feigned sorrow to belie. —

“Disastrous news! — when needed most,

Told ye not that your chiefs were lost? —

Complete the woeful tale, and say,

Who fell upon that fatal day;

What leaders of repute and name

Bought by their death a deathless fame.

If such my direst foeman’s doom.

My tears shall dew his honoured tomb. —

No answer? — Friend, of all our host

Thou knowest whom I should hate the most;

Whom thou too once were wont to hate.

Yet leavest me doubtful of his fate.” —

With look unmoved, — “Of friend or foe.

Aught,” answered Bertram, “wouldst thou know,

Demand in simple terms and plain,

A soldier’s answer shalt thou gain;

For question dark, or riddle high,

I have nor judgment nor reply.”

xv.

The wrath his art and fear suppressed,

Now blazed at once in Wycliffe’s breast;

And brave from man so meanly bom.

Roused his hereditary scorn.

— “Wretch! hast thou paid thy bloody debt?

Philip of Mortham, lives he yet?

False to thy patron or thine oath,

Trait’rous or perjured, one or both,

Slave! hast thou kept thy promise plight,

To slay thy leader in the fight?” —

Then from his seat the soldier sprung,

And Wycliffe’s hand he strongly wrung;

His grasp, as hard as glove of mail.

Forced the red blood-drop from the nail —

“A health!” he cried; and, ere he quaffed,

Flung from him Wycliffe’s hand, and laughed.

— “Now, Oswald Wycliffe, speaks thy heart!

Now playest thou well thy genuine part!

Worthy, but for thy craven fear,

Like me to roam a buccaneer.

What reck’st thou of the Cause divine,

If Mortham’s wealth and lands be thine?

What carest thou for beleaguered York,

If this good hand have done its work?

Or what though Fairfax and his best

Are reddening Marston’s swarthy breast,

If Philip Mortham with them lie,

Lending his life-blood to the dye? —

Sit then! and as mid comrades free

Carousing after victory,

When tales are told of blood and fear,

That boys and women shrink to hear.

From point to point I frankly tell

The deed of deat has it befell.

xvi.

“When purposed vengeance I forego,

Term me a wretch, nor deem me foe;

And when an insult I forgive,

Then brand me as a slave, and live! —

Philip of Mortham is with those

Whom Bertram Risingham calls foes;

Or whom more sure revenge attends,

If numbered with ungrateful friends.

As was his wont, ere battle glowed,

Along the marshalled ranks he rode,

And wore his vizor up the while.

I saw his melancholy smile.

When, full opposed in front, he knew

Where Rokeby’s kindred banner flew.

“And thus,” he said, “will friends divide!” —

I heard, and thought how, side by side,

We two had turned the battle’s tide.

In many a well-debated field,

Where Bertram’s breast was Philip’s shield.

I thought on Darien’s desarts pale,

Where death bestrides the evening gale.

How o’er my friend my cloak I threw.

And fenceless faced the deadly dew;

I thought on Quariana’s cliff,

Where, rescued from our foimdering skiff,

Through the white breakers’ wrath I bore

Exhausted Mortham to the shore;

And when his side an arrow found,

I sucked the Indian’s venomed wound.

These thoughts like torrents rushed along,

To sweep away my purpose strong.

xvii.

Hearts are not flint, and flints are rent;

Hearts are not steel, and steel is bent.

When Mortham bade me, as of yore,

Be near him in the battle’s roar,

I scarcely saw the spears laid low,

I scarcely heard the trumpets blow;

Lost was the war in inward strife,

Debating Mortham’s death or life.

’Twas then I thought, how, lured to come

As partner of his wealth and home.

Years of piratic wandering o’er.

With him I sought our native shore.

But Mortham’s lord grew far estranged

From the bold heart with whom he ranged;

Doubts, horrors, superstitious fears.

Saddened and dimmed descending years;

The wily priests their victim sought,

And damned each free-born deed and thought.

Then must I seek another home,

My license shook his sober dome;

If gold he gave, in one wild day

I revelled thrice the sum away.

An idle outcast then I strayed,

Unfit for tillage or for trade,

Deemed, like the steel of rusted lance.

Useless and dangerous at once.

The women feared my hardy look.

At my approach the peaceful shook;

The merchant saw my glance of flame.

And locked his hoards when Bertram came;

Each child of coward peace kept far

From the neglected son of war.

xviii.

“But civil discord gave the call.

And made my trade the trade of all.

By Mortham urged, I came again

His vassals to the fight to train.

What guerdon waited on my care?

I could not cant of creed or prayer;

Sour fanatics each trust obtained,

And I, dishonoured and disdained,

Gained but the high and happy lot,

In these poor arms to front the shot! —

All this thou know’ St, thy gestures tell;

Yet hear it o’er, and mark it well.

’Tis honour bids me now relate

Each circumstance of Mortham’s fate.

xix.

“Thoughts, from the tongue that slowly part,

Glance quick as lightning through the heart.

As my spur pressed my courser’s side,

Philip of Mortham’s cause was tried.

And, ere the charging squadrons mixed,

His plea was cast, his doom was fixed,

I watched him through the doubtful fray,

That changed as March’s moody day,

Till, like a stream that bursts its bank,

Fierce Rupert thundered on our flank.

’Twas then, midst tumult, smoke, and strife,

Where each man fought for death or life,

’Twas then I fired my petronel.

And Mortham, steed and rider, fell.

One dying look he upward cast,

Of wrath and anguish — ’twas his last.

Think not that there I stopped to view

What of the battle should ensue;

But ere I cleared that bloody press,

Our northern horse ran masterless,

Monckton and Mitton told the news,

How troops of Roundheads choked the Ouse,

And many a bonny Scot, aghast.

Spurring his palfrey northward, past,

Cursing the day when zeal or meed

First lured their Lesley o’er the Tweed.

Yet when I reached the banks of Swale,

Had rumour learned another tale;

With his barbed horse, fresh tidings say

Stout Cromwell has redeemed the day:

But whether false the news, or true,

Oswald, I reck as light as you.” —

xx.

Not then by Wycliffe might be shown.

How his pride startled at the tone

In which his complice, fierce and free,

Asserted guilt’s equality.

In smoothest terms his speech he wove.

Of endless friendship, faith, and love;

Promised and vowed in courteous sort.

But Bertram broke professions short.

“Wycliffe, be sure not here I stay,

No, scarcely till the rising day;

Warned by the legends of my youth,

I trust not an associate’s truth.

Do not my native dales prolong

Of Percy Rede the tragic song,

Trained forward to his bloody fall.

By Girsonfield, that treacherous Hall?

Oft, by the Pringle’s haunted side.

The shepherd sees his spectre glide.

And near the spot that gave me name,

The moated mound of Risingham,

Where Reed upon her margin sees

Sweet Woodburn’s cottages and trees.

Some ancient sculptor’s art has shown

An outlaw’s image on the stone;

Unmatched in strength, a giant he.

With quivered back, and kirtled knee.

Ask how he died, that hunter bold,

The tameless monarch of the wold,

And age and infancy can tell,

By brother’s treachery he fell. —

Thus warned by legends of my youth,

I trust to no associate’s truths

xxi.

“When last we reasoned of this deed,

Nought, I bethink me, was agreed,

Or by what rule, or when, or where,

The wealth of Mortham we shovdd share;

Then list, while I the portion name,

Our differing laws give each to claim.

Thou, vassal sworn to England’s throne.

Her rules of heritage must own;

They deal thee, as to nearest heir,

Thy kinsman’s lands and livings fair,

And these I yield:— do thou revere

The statutes of the buccaneer.

Friend to the sea, and foeman sworn

To all that on her waves are borne,

When falls a mate in battle broil,

His comrade heirs his portioned spoil;

When dies in fight a daring foe,

He claims his wealth who struck the blow;

And either rule to me assigns

Those spoils of Indian seas and mines.

Hoarded in Mortham’s caverns dark,

Ingot of gold and diamond spark.

Chalice and plate from churches borne,

And gems from shrieking beauty torn,

Each string of pearl, each silver bar,

And all the wealth of western war;

I go to search, where, dark and deep.

Those transatlantic treasures sleep.

Thou must along — for, lacking thee,

The heir will scarce find entrance free;

And then farewell. I haste to try

Each varied pleasure wealth can buy;

When cloyed each wish, these wars afford

Fresh work for Bertram’s restless sword.” —

xxii.

An undecided answer hung

On Oswald’s hesitating tongue.

Despite his craft, he heard with awe

This ruffian stabber fix the law;

While his own troubled passions veer

Through hatred, joy, regret, and fear; —

Joyed at the soul that Bertram flies,

He grudged the murderer’s mighty prize,

Hated his pride’s presumptuous tone,

And feared to wend with him alone.

At length, that middle course to steer.

To cowardice and craft so dear,

“His charge,” he said, “would ill allow

His absence from the fortress now;

Wilfrid on Bertram should attend,

His son should journey with his friend.” —

xxiii.

Contempt kept Bertram’s anger down,

And wreathed to savage smile his frown.

“Wilfrid, or thou — ’tis one to me,

Which ever bears the golden key.

Yet think not but I mark, and smile

To mark thy poor and selfish wile I

If injury from me you fear.

What, Oswald Wycliffe, shields thee here?

I’ve spnmg from walls more high than these,

I’ve swam through deeper streams than Tees.

Might I not stab thee, ere one yell

Could rouse the distant eentinel?

Start not — it is not my design,

But, if it were, weak fence were thine;

And, trust me, that, in time of need.

This hand hath done more desperate deed. —

Go, haste and rouse thy slumbering son;

Time calls, and I must needs be gone.” —

xxiv.

Nought of his sire’s ungenerous part

Polluted Wilfrid’s gentle heart;

A heart, too soft from early life

To hold with fortune needful strife.

His sire, while yet a hardier race

Of numerous sons were Wycliffe’s grace,

On Wilfrid set contemptuous brand.

For feeble heart and forceless hand;

But a fond mother’s care and joy

Were centered in her sickly boy.

No touch of childhood’s frolic mood

Shewed the elastic spring of blood;

Hour after hour he loved to pore

On Shakspeare’s rich and varied lore,

But turned from martial scenes and light,

From FalstafPs feast and Percy’s fight,

To ponder Jaques’ moral strain,

And muse with Hamlet, wise in vain;

And weep himself to soft repose

O’er gentle Desdemona’s woes.

xxv.

In youth, he sought not pleasures found

By youth in horse, and hawk, and hound.

But loved the quiet joys that wake

By lonely stream and silent lake;

In Deepdale’s solitude to lie,

Where all is cliff, and copse, and sky;

To climb Catcastle’s dizzy peak,

Or lone Pendragon’s mound to seek.

Such was his wont; and there his dream

Soared on some wild fantastic theme,

Of faithful love, or ceaseless Spring,

Till Contemplation’s wearied wing

The enthusiast could no more sustain,

And sad he sunk to earth again.

xxvi.

He loved — as many a lay can tell.

Preserved in Stanmore’s lonely dell;

For his was minstrel’s skill, he caught

The art unteachable, untaught;

He loved — his soul did nature frame

For love, and fancy nursed the flame;

Vainly he loved — for seldom swain

Of such soft mould is loved again;

Silent he loved — in every gaze

Was passion, friendship in his phrase.

So mused his life away — till died

His brethren all, their father’s pride.

Wilfrid is now the only heir

Of all his stratagems and care,

And destined, darkling, to pursue

Ambition’s maze by Oswald’s clue.

xxvii.

Wilfrid must love and woo the bright

Matilda, heir of Rokeby’s knight.

To love her was an easy hest,

The secret empress of his breast;

To woo her was a harder task

To one that durst not hope or ask;

Yet all Matilda could, she gave

In pity to her gentle slave;

Friendship, esteem, and fair regard,

And praise, the poet’s best reward!

She read the tales his taste approved,

And sung the lays he framed or loved;

Yet, loth to nurse the fatal flame

Of hopeless love in friendship’s name,

In kind caprice she oft withdrew

The favouring glance to friendship due,

Then grieved to see her victim’s pain.

And gave the dangerous smiles agam.

xxviii.

So did the suit of Wilfrid stand,

When war’s loud summons waked the land.

Three banners, floating o’er the Tees,

The woe-foreboding peasant sees;

In concert oft they braved of old

The bordering Scot’s incursion bold;

Frowning defiance in their pride,

Their vassals now and lords divide.

From his fair hall on Greta banks,

The knight of Rokeby led his ranks,

To aid the valiant northern Earls,

Who drew the sword for royal Charles;

Mortham, by marriage near allied, —

His sister had been Rokeby’s bride,

Though long before the civil fray

In peacefid grave the lady lay, —

Philip of Mortham raised his band.

And marched at Fairfax’s command;

While Wycliffe, bound by many a train

Of kindred ait with wily Vane,

Less prompt to brave the bloody field.

Made Barnard’s battlements his shield.

Secured them with his Lunedale powers,

And for the Commons held the towers.

xxix.

The lovely heir of Rokeby’s knight

Waits in his halls the event of fight;

For England’s war revered the claim

Of every unprotected name,

And spared, amid its fiercest rage.

Childhood and womanhood and age.

But Wilfrid, son to Rokeby’s foe,

Must the dear privilege forego

By Greta’s side, in evening grey.

To steal upon Matilda’s way,

Striving, with fond hypocrisy,

For careless step and vacant eye;

Calming each anxious look and glance.

To give the meeting all to chance,

Or framing as a fair excuse,

The book, the pencil, or the muse;

Something to give, to sing, to say,

Some modern tale, some ancient lay.

Then, while the longed-for minutes last,

Ah! minutes quickly over past! —

Recording each expression free,

Of kind or careless courtesy,

Each friendly look, each softer tone,

As food for fancy when alone.

All this is o’er — but, still unseen,

Wilfrid may lurk in Eastwood green,

To watch Matilda’s wonted round,

While springs his heart at every sound.

She comes! — ’tis but a passing sight.

Yet serves to cheat his weary night;

She comes not — He will wait the hour.

When her lamp lightens in the tower;

’Tis something yet, if, as she past,

Her shade is o’er the lattice cast.

“What is my life, my hope?” he said;

“Alas! a transitory shade.” —

xxx.

Thus wore his life, though reason strove

For mastery in vain with love,

Forcing upon his thoughts the sum

Of present woe and ills to come,

While still he turned impatient ear

From Truth’s intrusive voice severe.

Gentle, indifferent, and subdued,

In all but this, unmoved he viewed

Each outward change of ill and good:

But Wilfrid, docile, soft, and mild.

Was Fancy’s spoiled and wayward child —

In her bright car she bade him ride,

With one fair form to grace his side,

Or, in some wild and lone retreat,

Flung her high spells around his seat,

Bathed in her dews his languid head.

Her fairy mantle o’er him spread;

For him her opiates gave to flow,

Which he who tastes can ne’er forego.

And placed him in her circle, free

From every stern reality.

Till, to the Visionary, seem

Her day-dreams truth, and truth a dream.

xxxi.

Woe to the youth whom Fancy gains,

Winning from Reason’s hand the reins,

Pity and woe! for such a mind

Is soft, contemplative, and kind;

And woe to those who train such youth,

And spare to press the rights of truth,

The mind to strengthen and anneal,

While on the stithy glows the steel 1

O teach him, while your lessons last,

To judge the present by the past;

Remind him of each wish pursued.

How rich it glowed with promised good;

Remind him of each wish enjoyed,

How soon his hopes possession cloyed!

Tell him, we play unequal game,

Whene’er we shoot by Fancy’s aim;

And, ere he strip him for her race,

Shew the conditions of the chace.

Two Sisters by the goal are set,

Cold Disappointment and Regret;

One disenchants the winner’s eyes,

And strips of all its worth the prize,

While one augments its gaudy show,

More to enhance the loser’s woe.

The victor sees his fairy gold

Transformed, when won, to drossy mold,

But still the vanquished mourns his loss,

And rues, as gold, that glittering dross,

xxxii.

More wouldst thou know — yon tower survey,

Yon couch unpressed since parting day.

Yon untrimmed lamp, whose yellow gleam

Is mingling with the cold moon-beam,

And yon thin form! — the hectic red

On his pale cheek unequal spread;

The head reclined, the loosened hair.

The limbs relaxed, the mournful air. —

See, he looks up; — a woeful smile

Lightens his woe-worn cheek a while, —

’Tis Fancy wakes some idle thought,

To gild the ruin she has wrought;

For, like the bat of Indian brakes,

Her pinions fan the wound she makes,

And, soothing thus the dreamer’s pain,

She drinks his life-blood from the vein.

Now to the lattice turn his eyes,

Vain hope! to see the sun arise.

The moon with clouds is still o’ercast,

Still howls by fits the stormy blast;

Another hour must wear away.

Ere the East kindle into day,

And, hark! to waste that weary hour,

He tries the minstrel’s magic power.

xxxiii.

Song.
To the Moon.

Hail to thy cold and clouded beam,

Pale pilgrim of the troubled sky!

Hail, though the mists that o’er thee stream

Lend to thy brow their sullen dye!

How should thy pure and peaceful eye

Untroubled view our scenes below,

Or how a tearless beam supply

To light a world of war and woe!

Fair Queen! I will not blame thee now,

As once by Greta’s fairy side;

Each little cloud that dimmed thy brow

Did then an angel’s beauty hide.

And of the shades I then could chide,

Still are the thoughts to memory dear.

For, while a softer strain I tried.

They hid my blush, and calmed my fear.

Then did I swear thy ray serene

Was formed to light some lonely dell,

By two fond lovers only seen,

Reflected from the crystal well;

Or sleeping on their mossy cell.

Or quivering on the lattice bright,

Or glancing on their couch, to tell

How swiftly wanes the summer night!

xxxiv.

He starts — a step at this lone hour!

A voice! — his father seeks the tower,

With haggard look and troubled sense,

Fresh from his dreadful conference.

“Wilfrid! — what, not to sleep addressed?

Thou hast no cares to chase thy rest.

Mortham has fallen on Marston-moor;

Bertram brings warrant to secure

His treasures, bought by spoil and blood.

For the state’s use and public good.

The menials will thy voice obey;

Let his commission have its way,

In every point, in every word.” —

Then, in a whisper, — “Take thy sword!

Bertram is — what I must not tell.

I hear his hasty step — farewell!”

END OF CANTO FIRST.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/s/scott/walter/rokeby/canto1.html

Last updated Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 22:29