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.
Robert Southey |
Did then the bold Slave rear at last the Sword
Of Vengeance? drench'd he deep its thirsty blade
In the cold bosom of his tyrant lord?
Oh! who shall blame him? thro' the midnight shade
Still o'er his tortur'd memory rush'd the thought
Of every past delight; his native grove,
Friendship's best joys, and Liberty and Love,
All lost for ever! then Remembrance wrought
His soul to madness; round his restless bed
Freedom's pale spectre stalk'd, with a stern smile
Pointing the wounds of slavery, the while
She shook her chains and hung her sullen head:
No more on Heaven he calls with fruitless breath,
But sweetens with revenge, the draught of death.
Robert Southey |
My days among the Dead are past;
Around me I behold,
Where'er these casual eyes are cast,
The mighty minds of old;
My never-failing friends are they,
With whom I converse day by day.
With them I take delight in weal,
And seek relief in woe;
And while I understand and feel
How much to them I owe,
My cheeks have often been bedew'd
With tears of thoughtful gratitude.
My thoughts are with the Dead, with them
I live in long-past years,
Their virtues love, their faults condemn,
Partake their hopes and fears,
And from their lessons seek and find
Instruction with an humble mind.
My hopes are with the Dead, anon
My place with them will be,
And I with them shall travel on
Through all Futurity;
Yet leaving here a name, I trust,
That will not perish in the dust.
Robert Southey |
Author Note: In Finland there is a Castle which is called the New Rock, moated about with a river of unfounded depth, the water black and the fish therein
very distateful to the palate.
In this are spectres often seen, which
foreshew either the death of the Governor, or some prime officer
belonging to the place; and most commonly it appeareth in the shape of
an harper, sweetly singing and dallying and playing under the water.
It is reported of one Donica, that after she was dead, the Devil walked
in her body for the space of two years, so that none suspected but that
she was still alive; for she did both speak and eat, though very
sparingly; only she had a deep paleness on her countenance, which was
the only sign of death.
At length a Magician coming by where she was
then in the company of many other virgins, as soon as he beheld her he
said, "fair Maids, why keep you company with the dead Virgin whom you
suppose to be alive?" when taking away the magic charm which was tied
under her arm, the body fell down lifeless and without motion.
The following Ballad is founded on these stories.
They are to be found
in the notes to The Hierarchies of the blessed Angels; a Poem by Thomas
Heywood, printed in folio by Adam Islip, 1635.
High on a rock, whose castled shade
Darken'd the lake below,
In ancient strength majestic stood
The towers of Arlinkow.
The fisher in the lake below
Durst never cast his net,
Nor ever swallow in its waves
Her passing wings would wet.
The cattle from its ominous banks
In wild alarm would run,
Tho' parched with thirst and faint beneath
The summer's scorching sun.
For sometimes when no passing breeze
The long lank sedges waved,
All white with foam and heaving high
Its deafening billows raved;
And when the tempest from its base
The rooted pine would shake,
The powerless storm unruffling swept
Across the calm dead lake.
And ever then when Death drew near
The house of Arlinkow,
Its dark unfathom'd depths did send
Strange music from below.
The Lord of Arlinkow was old,
One only child had he,
Donica was the Maiden's name
As fair as fair might be.
A bloom as bright as opening morn
Flush'd o'er her clear white cheek,
The music of her voice was mild,
Her full dark eyes were meek.
Far was her beauty known, for none
So fair could Finland boast,
Her parents loved the Maiden much,
Young EBERHARD loved her most.
Together did they hope to tread
The pleasant path of life,
For now the day drew near to make
Donica Eberhard's wife.
The eve was fair and mild the air,
Along the lake they stray;
The eastern hill reflected bright
The fading tints of day.
And brightly o'er the water stream'd
The liquid radiance wide;
Donica's little dog ran on
And gambol'd at her side.
Youth, Health, and Love bloom'd on her cheek,
Her full dark eyes express
In many a glance to Eberhard
Her soul's meek tenderness.
Nor sound was heard, nor passing gale
Sigh'd thro' the long lank sedge,
The air was hushed, no little wave
Dimpled the water's edge.
Sudden the unfathom'd lake sent forth
Strange music from beneath,
And slowly o'er the waters sail'd
The solemn sounds of Death.
As the deep sounds of Death arose,
Donica's cheek grew pale,
And in the arms of Eberhard
The senseless Maiden fell.
Loudly the youth in terror shriek'd,
And loud he call'd for aid,
And with a wild and eager look
Gaz'd on the death-pale Maid.
But soon again did better thoughts
In Eberhard arise,
And he with trembling hope beheld
The Maiden raise her eyes.
And on his arm reclin'd she moved
With feeble pace and slow,
And soon with strength recover'd reach'd
Yet never to Donica's cheek
Return'd the lively hue,
Her cheeks were deathy, white, and wan,
Her lips a livid blue.
Her eyes so bright and black of yore
Were now more black and bright,
And beam'd strange lustre in her face
So deadly wan and white.
The dog that gambol'd by her side,
And lov'd with her to stray,
Now at his alter'd mistress howl'd
And fled in fear away.
Yet did the faithful Eberhard
Not love the Maid the less;
He gaz'd with sorrow, but he gaz'd
With deeper tenderness.
And when he found her health unharm'd
He would not brook delay,
But press'd the not unwilling Maid
To fix the bridal day.
And when at length it came, with joy
They hail'd the bridal day,
And onward to the house of God
They went their willing way.
And as they at the altar stood
And heard the sacred rite,
The hallowed tapers dimly stream'd
A pale sulphureous light.
And as the Youth with holy warmth
Her hand in his did hold,
Sudden he felt Donica's hand
Grow deadly damp and cold.
And loudly did he shriek, for lo!
A Spirit met his view,
And Eberhard in the angel form
His own Donica knew.
That instant from her earthly frame
Howling the Daemon fled,
And at the side of Eberhard
The livid form fell dead.
Robert Southey |
No stir in the air, no stir in the sea,
The Ship was still as she could be;
Her sails from heaven received no motion,
Her keel was steady in the ocean.
Without either sign or sound of their shock,
The waves flow’d over the Inchcape Rock;
So little they rose, so little they fell,
They did not move the Inchcape Bell.
The Abbot of Aberbrothok
Had placed that bell on the Inchcape Rock;
On a buoy in the storm it floated and swung,
And over the waves its warning rung.
When the Rock was hid by the surge’s swell,
The Mariners heard the warning Bell;
And then they knew the perilous Rock,
And blest the Abbot of Aberbrothok
The Sun in the heaven was shining gay,
All things were joyful on that day;
The sea-birds scream’d as they wheel’d round,
And there was joyaunce in their sound.
The buoy of the Inchcpe Bell was seen
A darker speck on the ocean green;
Sir Ralph the Rover walk’d his deck,
And fix’d his eye on the darker speck.
He felt the cheering power of spring,
It made him whistle, it made him sing;
His heart was mirthful to excess,
But the Rover’s mirth was wickedness.
His eye was on the Inchcape Float;
Quoth he, “My men, put out the boat,
And row me to the Inchcape Rock,
And I’ll plague the Abbot of Aberbrothok.
The boat is lower’d, the boatmen row,
And to the Inchcape Rock they go;
Sir Ralph bent over from the boat,
And he cut the bell from the Inchcape Float.
Down sank the Bell with a gurgling sound,
The bubbles rose and burst around;
Quoth Sir Ralph, “The next who comes to the Rock,
Won’t bless the Abbot of Aberbrothok.
Sir ralph the Rover sail’d away,
He scour’d the seas for many a day;
And now grown rich with plunder’d store,
He steers his course for Scotland’s shore.
So thick a haze o’erspreads the sky,
They cannot see the sun on high;
The wind hath blown a gale all day,
At evening it hath died away.
On the deck the Rover takes his stand,
So dark it is they see no land.
Quoth Sir Ralph, “It will be lighter soon,
For there is the dawn of the rising Moon.
“Canst hear,” said one, “the breakers roar?
For methinks we should be near the shore.
“Now, where we are I cannot tell,
But I wish we could hear the Inchcape Bell.
They hear no sound, the swell is strong,
Though the wind hath fallen they drift along;
Till the vessel strikes with a shivering shock,
“Oh Christ! It is the Inchcape Rock!”
Sir Ralph the Rover tore his hair,
He curst himself in his despair;
The waves rush in on every side,
The ship is sinking beneath the tide.
But even is his dying fear,
One dreadful sound could the Rover hear;
A sound as if with the Inchcape Bell,
The Devil below was ringing his knell.
Robert Southey |
Go, Valentine, and tell that lovely maid
Whom fancy still will portray to my sight,
How here I linger in this sullen shade,
This dreary gloom of dull monastic night;
Say, that every joy of life remote
At evening's closing hour I quit the throng,
Listening in solitude the ring-dome's note,
Who pours like me her solitary song;
Say, that of her absence calls the sorrowing sigh;
Say, that of all her charms I love to speak,
In fancy feel the magic of her eye,
In fancy view the smile illume her cheek,
Court the lone hour when silence stills the grove,
And heave the sigh of memory and of love.
Robert Southey |
And they have drown'd thee then at last! poor Phillis!
The burthen of old age was heavy on thee.
And yet thou should'st have lived! what tho' thine eye
Was dim, and watch'd no more with eager joy
The wonted call that on thy dull sense sunk
With fruitless repetition, the warm Sun
Would still have cheer'd thy slumber, thou didst love
To lick the hand that fed thee, and tho' past
Youth's active season, even Life itself
Poor old friend! most earnestly
Would I have pleaded for thee: thou hadst been
Still the companion of my childish sports,
And, as I roam'd o'er Avon's woody clifts,
From many a day-dream has thy short quick bark
Recall'd my wandering soul.
I have beguil'd
Often the melancholy hours at school,
Sour'd by some little tyrant, with the thought
Of distant home, and I remember'd then
Thy faithful fondness: for not mean the joy,
Returning at the pleasant holydays,
I felt from thy dumb welcome.
Sometimes have I remark'd thy slow decay,
Feeling myself changed too, and musing much
On many a sad vicissitude of Life!
Ah poor companion! when thou followedst last
Thy master's parting footsteps to the gate
That clos'd for ever on him, thou didst lose
Thy truest friend, and none was left to plead
For the old age of brute fidelity!
But fare thee well! mine is no narrow creed,
And HE who gave thee being did not frame
The mystery of life to be the sport
Of merciless man! there is another world
For all that live and move--a better one!
Where the proud bipeds, who would fain confine
INFINITE GOODNESS to the little bounds
Of their own charity, may envy thee!
Robert Southey |
To leap from the promontory of LEUCADIA was believed by the Greeks to be
a remedy for hopeless love, if the self-devoted victim escaped with
Artemisia lost her life in the dangerous experiment: and Sappho is
said thus to have perished, in attempting to cure her passion for Phaon.
(Scene the promontory of Leucadia.
This is the spot:--'tis here Tradition says
That hopeless Love from this high towering rock
Leaps headlong to Oblivion or to Death.
Oh 'tis a giddy height! my dizzy head
Swims at the precipice--'tis death to fall!
Lie still, thou coward heart! this is no time
To shake with thy strong throbs the frame convuls'd.
To die,--to be at rest--oh pleasant thought!
Perchance to leap and live; the soul all still,
And the wild tempest of the passions husht
In one deep calm; the heart, no more diseas'd
By the quick ague fits of hope and fear,
Presiding Powers look down!
In vain to you I pour'd my earnest prayers,
In vain I sung your praises: chiefly thou
VENUS! ungrateful Goddess, whom my lyre
Hymn'd with such full devotion! Lesbian groves,
Witness how often at the languid hour
Of summer twilight, to the melting song
Ye gave your choral echoes! Grecian Maids
Who hear with downcast look and flushing cheek
That lay of love bear witness! and ye Youths,
Who hang enraptur'd on the empassion'd strain
Gazing with eloquent eye, even till the heart
Sinks in the deep delirium! and ye too
Shall witness, unborn Ages! to that song
Of warmest zeal; ah witness ye, how hard,
Her fate who hymn'd the votive hymn in vain!
Ungrateful Goddess! I have hung my lute
In yonder holy pile: my hand no more
Shall wake the melodies that fail'd to move
The heart of Phaon--yet when Rumour tells
How from Leucadia Sappho hurl'd her down
A self-devoted victim--he may melt
Too late in pity, obstinate to love.
Oh haunt his midnight dreams, black NEMESIS!
Whom, self-conceiving in the inmost depths
Of CHAOS, blackest NIGHT long-labouring bore,
When the stern DESTINIES, her elder brood.
And shapeless DEATH, from that more monstrous birth
Leapt shuddering! haunt his slumbers, Nemesis,
Scorch with the fires of Phlegethon his heart,
Till helpless, hopeless, heaven-abandon'd wretch
He too shall seek beneath the unfathom'd deep
To hide him from thy fury.
How the sea
Far distant glitters as the sun-beams smile,
And gayly wanton o'er its heaving breast
Phoebus shines forth, nor wears one cloud to mourn
His votary's sorrows! God of Day shine on--
By Man despis'd, forsaken by the Gods,
I supplicate no more.
How many a day,
O pleasant Lesbos! in thy secret streams
Delighted have I plung'd, from the hot sun
Screen'd by the o'er-arching groves delightful shade,
And pillowed on the waters: now the waves
Shall chill me to repose.
Scarce to the brink will these rebellious limbs
Hark! how the rude deep below
Roars round the rugged base, as if it called
Its long-reluctant victim! I will come.
One leap, and all is over! The deep rest
Of Death, or tranquil Apathy's dead calm
Welcome alike to me.
Away vain fears!
Phaon is cold, and why should Sappho live?
Phaon is cold, or with some fairer one--
Thought worse than death!
(She throws herself from the precipice.
Robert Southey |
(to a brook near the village of Corston.
As thus I bend me o'er thy babbling stream
And watch thy current, Memory's hand pourtrays
The faint form'd scenes of the departed days,
Like the far forest by the moon's pale beam
Dimly descried yet lovely.
I have worn
Upon thy banks the live-long hour away,
When sportive Childhood wantoned thro' the day,
Joy'd at the opening splendour of the morn,
Or as the twilight darken'd, heaved the sigh
Thinking of distant home; as down my cheek
At the fond thought slow stealing on, would speak
The silent eloquence of the full eye.
Dim are the long past days, yet still they please
As thy soft sounds half heard, borne on the inconstant breeze.
Robert Southey |
Why dost thou beat thy breast and rend thine hair,
And to the deaf sea pour thy frantic cries?
Before the gale the laden vessel flies;
The Heavens all-favoring smile, the breeze is fair;
Hark to the clamors of the exulting crew!
Hark how their thunders mock the patient skies!
Why dost thou shriek and strain thy red-swoln eyes
As the white sail dim lessens from thy view?
Go pine in want and anguish and despair,
There is no mercy found in human-kind--
Go Widow to thy grave and rest thee there!
But may the God of Justice bid the wind
Whelm that curst bark beneath the mountain wave,
And bless with Liberty and Death the Slave!