Графични страници
PDF файл


AGAIN on the Knight looked the Churchman old,
And again he sighed heavily;

For he had himself been a warrior bold,

And fought in Spain and Italy.

And he thought on the days that were long since by,
When his limbs were strong, and his courage was high:
Now, slow and faint, he led the way,
Where, cloistered round, the garden lay;

The pillared arches were over their head,

And beneath their feet were the bones of the dead.

Spreading herbs, and flowerets bright,
Glistened with the dew of night;
Nor herb, nor floweret glistened there,
But was carved in the cloister arches as fair.
The Monk gazed long on the lovely moon,
Then into the night he looked forth;
And red and bright the streamers light
Were dancing in the glowing north.
So had he seen, in fair Castile,

The youth in glittering squadrons start; Sudden the flying jennet wheel,

And hurl the unexpected dart.

He knew, by the streamers that shot so bright,
That spirits were riding the northern light.

By a steel-clenched postern door,

They entered now the chancel tall; The darkened roof rose high aloof

On pillars, lofty, and light, and smau;

[ocr errors]

The key-stone, that locked each ribbed aisle,
Was a fleur-de-lys, or a quatre-feuille ;
The corbels were carved grotesque and grim;
And the pillars, with clustered shafts so trim,
With base and with capital flourished around,
Seemed bundles of lances which garlands had bound.

Full many a scutcheon and banner, riven,
Shook to the cold night-wind of heaven,
Around the screened altar's pale;

And there the dying lamps did burn,

Before thy low and lonely urn,

O gallant chief of Otterburne,

And thine, dark knight of Liddesdale.
O fading honours of the dead!
O high ambition, lowly laid!

The moon on the east oriel shone,
Through slender shafts of shapely stone,
By foliaged tracery combined;

Thou would'st have thought some fairy's hand
'Twixt poplars straight the ozier wand,

In many a freakish knot had twined;
Then framed a spell, when the work was done,
And changed the willow wreaths to stone.
The silver light, so pale and faint,
Showed many a prophet, and many a saint,
Whose image on the glass was dyed;
Full in the midst, his Cross of Red
Triumphant Michael brandished,

And trampled the Apostate's pride.
The moon-beam kissed the holy pane,
And threw on the pavement a bloody stain.



WHILE round the fire such legends go, Far different was the scene of woe, 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 built it, for his fault,

In 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 called 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.
"Twas now a place of punishment;
Whence if so loud a shriek were sent,
As reached the upper air,
The hearers blessed themselves, and said,
The spirits of the sinful dead
Bemoaned their torments there.

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 gravestones rudely sculptured 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 seemed to strive
As if it scarce might keep alive;
And yet it dimly served to show
The awful conclave met below.

There, met to doom in secrecy,
Were placed the heads 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 St. 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 flowing dress,
Is Tynemouth's haughty Prioress,
And she with awe looks pale:

And he, that Ancient Man, whose sight
Has long been quenched 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 style:
For sanctity, called through the isle,
The saint of Lindisfarn.

Before them stood a guilty pair;
But, though an equal fate they 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 her 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 head,
And down her slender form they spread,
In ringlets rich and rare.

Constance de Beverly they know,
Sister professed of Fontevraud,

Whom the church numbered with the dead,
For broken vows, and convent fled.

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,
Bespoke a matchless constancy;

« ПредишнаНапред »