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Rudiger - A Ballad

Written by: Robert Southey | Biography
 | Quotes (21) |
 Author Note: Divers Princes and Noblemen being assembled in a beautiful and fair
Palace, which was situate upon the river Rhine, they beheld a boat or
small barge make toward the shore, drawn by a Swan in a silver chain,
the one end fastened about her neck, the other to the vessel; and in it
an unknown soldier, a man of a comely personage and graceful presence,
who stept upon the shore; which done, the boat guided by the Swan left
him, and floated down the river.
This man fell afterward in league with a fair gentlewoman, married her, and by her had many children.
After some years, the same Swan came with the same barge into the same place; the soldier entering into it, was carried thence the way he came, left wife, children and family, and was never seen amongst them after.
Now who can judge this to be other than one of those spirits that are named Incubi? says Thomas Heywood.
I have adopted his story, but not his solution, making the unknown soldier not an evil spirit, but one who had purchased happiness of a malevolent being, by the promised sacrifice of his first-born child.
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Bright on the mountain's heathy slope The day's last splendors shine And rich with many a radiant hue Gleam gayly on the Rhine.
And many a one from Waldhurst's walls Along the river stroll'd, As ruffling o'er the pleasant stream The evening gales came cold.
So as they stray'd a swan they saw Sail stately up and strong, And by a silver chain she drew A little boat along, Whose streamer to the gentle breeze Long floating fluttered light, Beneath whose crimson canopy There lay reclin'd a knight.
With arching crest and swelling breast On sail'd the stately swan And lightly up the parting tide The little boat came on.
And onward to the shore they drew And leapt to land the knight, And down the stream the swan-drawn boat Fell soon beyond the sight.
Was never a Maid in Waldhurst's walls Might match with Margaret, Her cheek was fair, her eyes were dark, Her silken locks like jet.
And many a rich and noble youth Had strove to win the fair, But never a rich or noble youth Could rival Rudiger.
At every tilt and turney he Still bore away the prize, For knightly feats superior still And knightly courtesies.
His gallant feats, his looks, his love, Soon won the willing fair, And soon did Margaret become The wife of Rudiger.
Like morning dreams of happiness Fast roll'd the months away, For he was kind and she was kind And who so blest as they? Yet Rudiger would sometimes sit Absorb'd in silent thought And his dark downward eye would seem With anxious meaning fraught; But soon he rais'd his looks again And smil'd his cares eway, And mid the hall of gaiety Was none like him so gay.
And onward roll'd the waining months, The hour appointed came, And Margaret her Rudiger Hail'd with a father's name.
But silently did Rudiger The little infant see, And darkly on the babe he gaz'd And very sad was he.
And when to bless the little babe The holy Father came, To cleanse the stains of sin away In Christ's redeeming name, Then did the cheek of Rudiger Assume a death-pale hue, And on his clammy forehead stood The cold convulsive dew; And faltering in his speech he bade The Priest the rites delay, Till he could, to right health restor'd, Enjoy the festive day.
When o'er the many-tinted sky He saw the day decline, He called upon his Margaret To walk beside the Rhine.
"And we will take the little babe, "For soft the breeze that blows, "And the wild murmurs of the stream "Will lull him to repose.
" So forth together did they go, The evening breeze was mild, And Rudiger upon his arm Did pillow the sweet child.
And many a one from Waldhurst's walls Along the banks did roam, But soon the evening wind came cold, And all betook them home.
Yet Rudiger in silent mood Along the banks would roam, Nor aught could Margaret prevail To turn his footsteps home.
"Oh turn thee--turn thee Rudiger, "The rising mists behold, "The evening wind is damp and chill, "The little babe is cold!" "Now hush thee--hush thee Margaret, "The mists will do no harm, "And from the wind the little babe "Lies sheltered on my arm.
" "Oh turn thee--turn thee Rudiger, "Why onward wilt thou roam? "The moon is up, the night is cold, "And we are far from home.
" He answered not, for now he saw A Swan come sailing strong, And by a silver chain she drew A little boat along.
To shore they came, and to the boat Fast leapt he with the child, And in leapt Margaret--breathless now And pale with fear and wild.
With arching crest and swelling breast On sail'd the stately swan, And lightly down the rapid tide The little boat went on.
The full-orb'd moon that beam'd around Pale splendor thro' the night, Cast through the crimson canopy A dim-discoloured light.
And swiftly down the hurrying stream In silence still they sail, And the long streamer fluttering fast Flapp'd to the heavy gale.
And he was mute in sullen thought And she was mute with fear, Nor sound but of the parting tide Broke on the listening ear.
The little babe began to cry And waked his mother's care, "Now give to me the little babe "For God's sake, Rudiger!" "Now hush thee, hush thee Margaret! "Nor my poor heart distress-- "I do but pay perforce the price "Of former happiness.
"And hush thee too my little babe, "Thy cries so feeble cease: "Lie still, lie still;--a little while "And thou shalt be at peace.
" So as he spake to land they drew, And swift he stept on shore, And him behind did Margaret Close follow evermore.
It was a place all desolate, Nor house nor tree was there, And there a rocky mountain rose Barren, and bleak, and bare.
And at its base a cavern yawn'd, No eye its depth might view, For in the moon-beam shining round That darkness darker grew.
Cold Horror crept thro' Margaret's blood, Her heart it paus'd with fear, When Rudiger approach'd the cave And cried, "lo I am here!" A deep sepulchral sound the cave Return'd "lo I am here!" And black from out the cavern gloom Two giant arms appear.
And Rudiger approach'd and held The little infant nigh; Then Margaret shriek'd, and gather'd then New powers from agony.
And round the baby fast and firm Her trembling arms she folds, And with a strong convulsive grasp The little infant holds.
"Now help me, Jesus!" loud she cries.
And loud on God she calls; Then from the grasp of Rudiger The little infant falls.
And now he shriek'd, for now his frame The huge black arms clasp'd round, And dragg'd the wretched Rudiger Adown the dark profound.



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