Robert Southey |
Author Note: The story of the following ballad was related to me, when a school boy, as a fact which had really happened in the North of England.
adopted the metre of Mr.
Lewis's Alonzo and Imogene--a poem deservedly
Who is she, the poor Maniac, whose wildly-fix'd eyes
Seem a heart overcharged to express?
She weeps not, yet often and deeply she sighs,
She never complains, but her silence implies
The composure of settled distress.
No aid, no compassion the Maniac will seek,
Cold and hunger awake not her care:
Thro' her rags do the winds of the winter blow bleak
On her poor withered bosom half bare, and her cheek
Has the deathy pale hue of despair.
Yet chearful and happy, nor distant the day,
Poor Mary the Maniac has been;
The Traveller remembers who journeyed this way
No damsel so lovely, no damsel so gay
As Mary the Maid of the Inn.
Her chearful address fill'd the guests with delight
As she welcomed them in with a smile:
Her heart was a stranger to childish affright,
And Mary would walk by the Abbey at night
When the wind whistled down the dark aisle.
She loved, and young Richard had settled the day,
And she hoped to be happy for life;
But Richard was idle and worthless, and they
Who knew him would pity poor Mary and say
That she was too good for his wife.
'Twas in autumn, and stormy and dark was the night,
And fast were the windows and door;
Two guests sat enjoying the fire that burnt bright,
And smoking in silence with tranquil delight
They listen'd to hear the wind roar.
"Tis pleasant," cried one, "seated by the fire side
"To hear the wind whistle without.
"A fine night for the Abbey!" his comrade replied,
"Methinks a man's courage would now be well tried
"Who should wander the ruins about.
"I myself, like a school-boy, should tremble to hear
"The hoarse ivy shake over my head;
"And could fancy I saw, half persuaded by fear,
"Some ugly old Abbot's white spirit appear,
"For this wind might awaken the dead!"
"I'll wager a dinner," the other one cried,
"That Mary would venture there now.
"Then wager and lose!" with a sneer he replied,
"I'll warrant she'd fancy a ghost by her side,
"And faint if she saw a white cow.
"Will Mary this charge on her courage allow?"
His companion exclaim'd with a smile;
"I shall win, for I know she will venture there now,
"And earn a new bonnet by bringing a bough
"From the elder that grows in the aisle.
With fearless good humour did Mary comply,
And her way to the Abbey she bent;
The night it was dark, and the wind it was high
And as hollowly howling it swept thro' the sky
She shiver'd with cold as she went.
O'er the path so well known still proceeded the Maid
Where the Abbey rose dim on the sight,
Thro' the gate-way she entered, she felt not afraid
Yet the ruins were lonely and wild, and their shade
Seem'd to deepen the gloom of the night.
All around her was silent, save when the rude blast
Howl'd dismally round the old pile;
Over weed-cover'd fragments still fearless she past,
And arrived in the innermost ruin at last
Where the elder tree grew in the aisle.
Well-pleas'd did she reach it, and quickly drew near
And hastily gather'd the bough:
When the sound of a voice seem'd to rise on her ear,
She paus'd, and she listen'd, all eager to hear,
Aud her heart panted fearfully now.
The wind blew, the hoarse ivy shook over her head,
She listen'd,--nought else could she hear.
The wind ceas'd, her heart sunk in her bosom with dread
For she heard in the ruins distinctly the tread
Of footsteps approaching her near.
Behind a wide column half breathless with fear
She crept to conceal herself there:
That instant the moon o'er a dark cloud shone clear,
And she saw in the moon-light two ruffians appear
And between them a corpse did they bear.
Then Mary could feel her heart-blood curdle cold!
Again the rough wind hurried by,--
It blew off the hat of the one, and behold
Even close to the feet of poor Mary it roll'd,--
She felt, and expected to die.
"Curse the hat!" he exclaims.
"Nay come on and first hide
"The dead body," his comrade replies.
She beheld them in safety pass on by her side,
She seizes the hat, fear her courage supplied,
And fast thro' the Abbey she flies.
She ran with wild speed, she rush'd in at the door,
She gazed horribly eager around,
Then her limbs could support their faint burthen no more,
And exhausted and breathless she sunk on the floor
Unable to utter a sound.
Ere yet her pale lips could the story impart,
For a moment the hat met her view;--
Her eyes from that object convulsively start,
For--oh God what cold horror then thrill'd thro' her heart,
When the name of her Richard she knew!
Where the old Abbey stands, on the common hard by
His gibbet is now to be seen.
Not far from the road it engages the eye,
The Traveller beholds it, and thinks with a sigh
Of poor Mary the Maid of the Inn.
William Cowper |
Hark! 'tis the twanging horn! O'er yonder bridge,
That with its wearisome but needful length
Bestrides the wintry flood, in which the moon
Sees her unwrinkled face reflected bright,
He comes, the herald of a noisy world,
With spatter'd boots, strapp'd waist, and frozen locks;
News from all nations lumb'ring at his back.
True to his charge, the close-pack'd load behind,
Yet careless what he brings, his one concern
Is to conduct it to the destin'd inn:
And, having dropp'd th' expected bag, pass on.
He whistles as he goes, light-hearted wretch,
Cold and yet cheerful: messenger of grief
Perhaps to thousands, and of joy to some;
To him indiff'rent whether grief or joy.
Houses in ashes, and the fall of stocks,
Births, deaths, and marriages, epistles wet
With tears that trickled down the writer's cheeks
Fast as the periods from his fluent quill,
Or charg'd with am'rous sighs of absent swains,
Or nymphs responsive, equally affect
His horse and him, unconscious of them all.
But oh th' important budget! usher'd in
With such heart-shaking music, who can say
What are its tidings? have our troops awak'd?
Or do they still, as if with opium drugg'd,
Snore to the murmurs of th' Atlantic wave?
Is India free? and does she wear her plum'd
And jewell'd turban with a smile of peace,
Or do we grind her still? The grand debate,
The popular harangue, the tart reply,
The logic, and the wisdom, and the wit,
And the loud laugh--I long to know them all;
I burn to set th' imprison'd wranglers free,
And give them voice and utt'rance once again.
Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And, while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups,
That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful ev'ning in.
Not such his ev'ning, who with shining face
Sweats in the crowded theatre, and, squeez'd
And bor'd with elbow-points through both his sides,
Out-scolds the ranting actor on the stage:
Nor his, who patient stands till his feet throb,
And his head thumps, to feed upon the breath
Of patriots, bursting with heroic rage,
Or placemen, all tranquility and smiles.
This folio of four pages, happy work!
Which not ev'n critics criticise; that holds
Inquisitive attention, while I read,
Fast bound in chains of silence, which the fair,
Though eloquent themselves, yet fear to break;
What is it, but a map of busy life,
Its fluctuations, and its vast concerns?.
Oh winter, ruler of th' inverted year,
Thy scatter'd hair with sleet like ashes fill'd,
Thy breath congeal'd upon thy lips, thy cheeks
Fring'd with a beard made white with other snows
Than those of age, thy forehead wrapp'd in clouds,
A leafless branch thy sceptre, and thy throne
A sliding car, indebted to no wheels,
But urg'd by storms along its slipp'ry way,
I love thee, all unlovely as thou seem'st,
And dreaded as thou art! Thou hold'st the sun
A pris'ner in the yet undawning east,
Short'ning his journey between morn and noon,
And hurrying him, impatient of his stay,
Down to the rosy west; but kindly still
Compensating his loss with added hours
Of social converse and instructive ease,
And gath'ring, at short notice, in one group
The family dispers'd, and fixing thought,
Not less dispers'd by day-light and its cares.
I crown thee king of intimate delights,
Fire-side enjoyments, home-born happiness,
And all the comforts that the lowly roof
Of undisturb'd retirement, and the hours
Of long uninterrupted ev'ning, know.
No rattling wheels stop short before these gates;
No powder'd pert proficient in the art
Of sounding an alarm, assaults these doors
Till the street rings; no stationary steeds
Cough their own knell, while, heedless of the sound,
The silent circle fan themselves, and quake:
But here the needle plies its busy task,
The pattern grows, the well-depicted flow'r,
Wrought patiently into the snowy lawn,
Unfolds its bosom; buds, and leaves, and sprigs,
And curling tendrils, gracefully dispos'd,
Follow the nimble finger of the fair;
A wreath that cannot fade, or flow'rs that blow
With most success when all besides decay.
The poet's or historian's page, by one
Made vocal for th' amusement of the rest;
The sprightly lyre, whose treasure of sweet sounds
The touch from many a trembling chord shakes out;
And the clear voice symphonious, yet distinct,
And in the charming strife triumphant still;
Beguile the night, and set a keener edge
On female industry: the threaded steel
Flies swiftly, and, unfelt, the task proceeds.
The volume clos'd, the customary rites
Of the last meal commence.
A Roman meal;
Such as the mistress of the world once found
Delicious, when her patriots of high note,
Perhaps by moonlight, at their humble doors,
And under an old oak's domestic shade,
Enjoy'd--spare feast!--a radish and an egg!
Discourse ensues, not trivial, yet not dull,
Nor such as with a frown forbids the play
Of fancy, or proscribes the sound of mirth:
Nor do we madly, like an impious world,
Who deem religion frenzy, and the God
That made them an intruder on their joys,
Start at his awful name, or deem his praise
A jarring note.
Themes of a graver tone,
Exciting oft our gratitude and love,
While we retrace with mem'ry's pointing wand,
That calls the past to our exact review,
The dangers we have 'scaped, the broken snare,
The disappointed foe, deliv'rance found
Unlook'd for, life preserv'd and peace restor'd--
Fruits of omnipotent eternal love.
Oh ev'nings worthy of the gods! exclaim'd
The Sabine bard.
Oh ev'nings, I reply,
More to be priz'd and coveted than yours,
As more illumin'd, and with nobler truths.
That I, and mine, and those we love, enjoy.
Friedrich von Schiller |
Laura! a sunrise seems to break
Where'er thy happy looks may glow.
Joy sheds its roses o'er thy cheek,
Thy tears themselves do but bespeak
The rapture whence they flow;
Blest youth to whom those tears are given--
The tears that change his earth to heaven;
His best reward those melting eyes--
For him new suns are in the skies!
Thy soul--a crystal river passing,
Silver-clear, and sunbeam-glassing,
Mays into bloom sad Autumn by thee;
Night and desert, if they spy thee,
To gardens laugh--with daylight shine,
Lit by those happy smiles of thine!
Dark with cloud the future far
Goldens itself beneath thy star.
Smilest thou to see the harmony
Of charm the laws of Nature keep?
Alas! to me the harmony
Brings only cause to weep!
Holds not Hades its domain
Underneath this earth of ours?
Under palace, under fame,
Underneath the cloud-capped towers?
Stately cities soar and spread
O'er your mouldering bones, ye dead!
From corruption, from decay,
Springs yon clove-pink's fragrant bloom;
Yon gay waters wind their way
From the hollows of a tomb.
From the planets thou mayest know
All the change that shifts below,
Fled--beneath that zone of rays,
Fled to night a thousand Mays;
Thrones a thousand--rising--sinking,
Earth from thousand slaughters drinking
Blood profusely poured as water;--
Of the sceptre--of the slaughter--
Wouldst thou know what trace remaineth?
Seek them where the dark king reigneth!
Scarce thine eye can ope and close
Ere life's dying sunset glows;
Sinking sudden from its pride
Into death--the Lethe tide.
Ask'st thou whence thy beauties rise?
Boastest thou those radiant eyes?--
Or that cheek in roses dyed?
All their beauty (thought of sorrow!)
From the brittle mould they borrow.
Heavy interest in the tomb
For the brief loan of the bloom,
For the beauty of the day,
Death the usurer, thou must pay,
In the long to-morrow!
Maiden!--Death's too strong for scorn;
In the cheek the fairest, He
But the fairest throne doth see
Though the roses of the morn
Weave the veil by beauty worn--
Aye, beneath that broidered curtain,
Stands the Archer stern and certain!
Maid--thy Visionary hear--
Trust the wild one as the sear,
When he tells thee that thine eye,
While it beckons to the wooer,
Only lureth yet more nigh
Death, the dark undoer!
Every ray shed from thy beauty
Wastes the life-lamp while it beams,
And the pulse's playful duty,
And the blue veins' merry streams,
Sport and run into the pall--
Creatures of the Tyrant, all!
As the wind the rainbow shatters,
Death thy bright smiles rends and scatters,
Smile and rainbow leave no traces;--
From the spring-time's laughing graces,
From all life, as from its germ,
Grows the revel of the worm!
Woe, I see the wild wind wreak
Its wrath upon thy rosy bloom,
Winter plough thy rounded cheek,
Cloud and darkness close in gloom;
Blackening over, and forever,
Youth's serene and silver river!
Love alike and beauty o'er,
Lovely and beloved no more!
Maiden, an oak that soars on high,
And scorns the whirlwind's breath
Behold thy Poet's youth defy
The blunted dart of Death!
His gaze as ardent as the light
That shoots athwart the heaven,
His soul yet fiercer than the light
In the eternal heaven,
Of Him, in whom as in an ocean-surge
Creation ebbs and flows--and worlds arise and merge!
Through Nature steers the poet's thought to find
No fear but this--one barrier to the mind?
And dost thou glory so to think?
And heaves thy bosom?--Woe!
This cup, which lures him to the brink,
As if divinity to drink--
Has poison in its flow!
Wretched, oh, wretched, they who trust
To strike the God-spark from the dust!
The mightiest tone the music knows,
But breaks the harp-string with the sound;
And genius, still the more it glows,
But wastes the lamp whose life bestows
The light it sheds around.
Soon from existence dragged away,
The watchful jailer grasps his prey:
Vowed on the altar of the abused fire,
The spirits I raised against myself conspire!
Let--yes, I feel it two short springs away
Pass on their rapid flight;
And life's faint spark shall, fleeting from the clay,
Merge in the Fount of Light!
And weep'st thou, Laura?--be thy tears forbid;
Would'st thou my lot, life's dreariest years amid,
Protract and doom?--No: sinner, dry thy tears:
Would'st thou, whose eyes beheld the eagle wing
Of my bold youth through air's dominion spring,
Mark my sad age (life's tale of glory done)--
Crawl on the sod and tremble in the sun?
Hear the dull frozen heart condemn the flame
That as from heaven to youth's blithe bosom came;
And see the blind eyes loathing turn from all
The lovely sins age curses to recall?
Let me die young!--sweet sinner, dry thy tears!
Yes, let the flower be gathered in its bloom!
And thou, young genius, with the brows of gloom,
Quench thou life's torch, while yet the flame is strong!
Even as the curtain falls; while still the scene
Most thrills the hearts which have its audience been;
As fleet the shadows from the stage--and long
When all is o'er, lingers the breathless throng!