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The lady sprang up suddenly,
The lovely lady, Christabel!
It Laoan'd as near, as near can be,
But what it is, she cannot tell.—
On the other side it seems to be,
Of the huge, broad-breasted, old oak tree.
The night is chill; the forest bare;
Is it the wind that moaneth bleak
There is not wind enough in the air
To move away the ringlet curl
From the lovely lady's check–
There is not wind enough to twirl
The one red leaf, the last of its clan,
That dances as often as dance it can,
Hanging so light, and hanging so high,
On the topmost twig that looks up at the sky.
Hush, beating heart of Christabel!
Jesu, Maria, shield her well!
She folded her arms beneath her cloak,
And stole to the other side of the oak.
What sees she there :
There she sees a damsel bright,
Drest in a silken robe of white,
That shadowy in the moonlight shone:
The neck that made that white robe wan,
Her stately neck, and arms were bare;
Her blue-vein'd feet unsandal'd were,
And wildly glitter'd here and there
The gems entangled in her hair.
I guess, 't was frightful there to see
A lady so richly clad as she—
Mary mother, save me now!
(Said Christabel), And who art thou?
The lady strange made answer meet,
And her voice was faint and sweet:—
Have pity on my sore distress,
I scarce can speak for weariness:
Stretch forth thy hand, and have no fear!
Said Christabel, How camest thou here?
And the lady, whose voice was faint and sweet:
Did thus pursue her answer meet:—
My sire is of a noble line,
And my name is Geraldine:
Five warriors seized me yestermorn,
Me, even me, a maid forlorn :
They choked my cries with force and fright,
And tied me on a palfrey white.
The palfrey was as fleet as wind,
And they rode furiously behind.
They spurr'd amain, their steeds were white;
And once we cross'd the shade of night.
As sure as Heaven shall rescue me,
I have no thought what men they be ;
Nor do I know how long it is
(For I have lain entranced I wis)
Since one, the tallest of the five,
Took me from the palfrey's back,
A weary woman, scarce alive.
Some mutter'd words his comrades spoke:
He placed me underneath this oak,
Each matin bell, the Baron saith,
Knells us back to a world of death.
These words Sir Leoline first said,
When he rose and found his lady dead:
These words Sir Leoline will say,
Many a morn to his dying day !
And hence the custom and law began,
That still at dawn the sacristan,
who duly pulls the heavy bell,
Five-and-forty beads must tell
Between each stroke—a warning knell,
Which not a soul can chuse but hear
From Bratha Head to Wyndermere.
Saith Bracy the bard, So let it knell!
And let the drowsy sacristan
Still count as slowly as he can!
There is no lack of such, I ween,
As well fill up the space between.
In Langdale Pike and Witch's Lair,
And Dungeon-ghyll so foully rent,
With ropes of rock and bells of air
Three sinful sextons ghosts are pent,
Who all give back, one aster to other,
The death-note to their living brother;
And oft too, by the knell offended,
Just as their one! two' three is ended,
The devil mocks the doleful tale
With a merry peal from Borrowdale.
The air is still through mist and cloud
That merry peal comes ringing loud;
And Geraldine shakes off her dread,
And rises lightly from the bed;
Puts on her silken vestments white,
And tricks her hair in lovely plight,
And, nothing doubting of her spell,
Awakens the lady Christabel.
* Sleep you, sweet lady Christabel?
I trust that you have rested well.»
And Christabel awoke and spied
The same who lay down by her side—
O rather say, the same whom she
Raised up beneath the old oak-tree'
Nay, fairer yet! and yet more fair
For she belike hath drunken deep
Of all the blessedness of sleep!
And while she spake, her looks, her air
Such gentle thankfulness declare,
That (so it seem'd her girded vests
Grew tight beneath her heaving breasts.
• Sure I have sinn'd,” said Christabel,
• Now Heaven be praised if all be well!"
And in low faltering tones, yet sweet,
Did she the lofty lady greet
With such perplexity of mind
As dreams too lively leave behind.
So quickly she rose, and quickly array'd Her maiden limbs, and having pray'd That He, who on the cross did groan, Might wash away her sins unknown,
She forthwith led fair Geraldine To meet her sire, Sir Leonine.
The lovely maid and the lady tall
Are pacing both into the hall,
And, pacing on through page and groom,
Enter the Baron's presence-room.
The Baron rose, and while he prest
His gentle daughter to his breast,
With cheerful wonder in his eyes
The lady Geraldine espies,
And gave such welcome to the same,
As might beseem so bright a dame!
But when he heard the lady's tale, And when she told her father's name, Why waxd Sir Leoline so pale, Murmuring o'er the name again, Lord Roland de Vaux of Tryermaine?
Alas! they had been friends in youth;
But whispering tongues can poison truth;
And constancy lives in realms above,
And life is thorny; and youth is vain:
And to be wroth with one we love,
Doth work like madness in the brain.
And thus it chanced, as I divine,
With Roland and Sir Leoline.
Each spake words of high disdain
And insult to his heart's best brother:
They parted—ne'er to meet again!
But never either found another
To free the hollow heart from paining—
They stood aloof, the scars remaining,
Like cliffs which had been rent asunder;
A dreary sea now flows between.
But neither heat, nor frost, nor thunder,
Shall wholly do away, I ween,
The marks of that which once hath been.
Sir Leoline, a moment's space,
Stood gazing on the damsel's face:
And the youthful Lord of Tryermaine
Came back upon his heart again.
() then the Baron forgot his age'
His noble heart swell'd high with rage;
He swore by the wounds in Jesu's side,
He would proclaim it far and wide
With trump and solemn heraldry,
That they, who thus had wrong'd the dame,
Were base as spotted infamy!
• And if they dare deny the same,
My herald shall appoint a week,
And let the recreant traitors seek
My tourney court—that there and then
I may dislodge their reptile souls
From the bodies and forms of men! •
He spake: his eye in lightning rolls!
For the lady was ruthlessly seized; and he kenn'd
In the beautiful lady the child of his friend!"
And now the tears were on his face,
And fondly in his arms he took
Fair Geraldine, who met the embrace,
Prolonging it with joyous look.
Which when she view'd, a vision fell
Upon the soul of Christabel,
The vision of fear, the touch and pain
She shrunk and shudder'd, and saw again—
(Ah, woe is me! Was it for thee,
Thou gentle maid! such sights to see?)
Again she saw that bosom old,
Again she felt that bosom cold,
And drew in her breath with a hissing sound:
whereat the Knight turn'd wildly round,
And nothing saw but his own sweet maid
With eyes upraised, as one that pray'd.
The touch, the sight, had pass'd away,
And in its stead that vision blest,
Which comfortcl her after-rest,
While in the lady's arms she lay,
Had put a rapture in her breast,
And on her lips and o'er her eyes
Spread smiles like light!
With new surprise, • What ails then my beloved childt. The Baron said—His daughter mild Made answer, . All will yet be well!" I ween, she had no power to tell Aught else: so mighty was the spell.
Yet he, who saw this Geraldine,
Had deem'd her sure a thing divine.
Such sorrow with such grace she blended,
As if she fear'd she had offended
Sweet Christabel, that gentle maid!.
And with such lowly tones she pray'd,
She might be sent without delay
Home to her father's mansion.
. Nay! Nay, by my soul!" said Leoline. • Ho! Bracy the bard, the charge be thine: Go thou, with music sweet and loud, And take two steeds with trappings proud, And take the youth whom thou lovest best To bear thy harp, and learn thy song, And clothe you both in solemn vest, And over the mountains haste along, Lest wandering folk, that are abroad, Detain you on the valley road. And when he has cross'd the Irthing flood, My merry bard he hastes, he hastes Up Knorren Moor, through Ilalegarth Wood, And reaches soon that castle good Which stands and threatens Scotland's wastes.
. Bard Bracy, hard Tracy' your horses are slect,
Ye must ride up the hall, your music so sweet,
More loud than your horses echoing feet!
And loud and loud to Lord Roland call,
Thy daughter is safe in Langdale hall !
Thy beautiful daughter is safe and free-
Sir Leoline greets thee thus through me.
He bids thee come without delay
With all thy numerous array;
And take thy lovely daughter home:
And he will meet thce on the way
With all his numerous array,
White with their panting palfreys' foam;
And by mine honour! I will say,
That I repent me of the day
When I spake words of fierce disdain
To Roland de Vaux of Tryermaine!
—For since that evil hour hath flown,
Many a summer's sun hath shone;
Yet ne'er found I a friend again
Like Roland de Vaux of Tryermaine."
The lady fell, and clasp'd his knees,
Her face upraised, her eyes o'erflowing;
And Bracy replied, with faultering voice,
Her gracious hail on all bestowing;-
Thy words, thou sire of Christabel,
Are sweeter than my harp can tell;
Yet might I gain a boon of thee,
This day my journey should not be,
So strange a dream hath come to me;
That I had vow'd with music loud
To clear yon wood from thing unblest,
Warn'd by a vision in my rest!
For in my sleep I saw that dove,
That gentle bird, whom thou dost love,
And call'st by thy own daughter's name—
Sir Leoline! I saw the same,
Fluttering, and uttering fearful moan,
Among the green herbs in the forest alone.
Which when I saw and when l heard,
I wonder'd what might ail the bird:
For nothing near it could I see,
Save the grass and green herbs underneath the old
And in my dream, methought, I went To search out what might there be found; And what the sweet bird's trouble meant, That thus lay fluttering on the ground. I went and peer'd, and could descry No cause for her distressful cry; But yet for her dear lady's sake I stoop'd, methought, the dove to take, When lo! I saw a bright green snake Coil'd around its wings and neck. Green as the herbs on which it couch'd, Close by the dove's its head it crouch'd; And with the dove it heaves and stirs, Swelling its neck as she swell'd hers! I woke; it was the midnight hour, The clock was echoing in the tower; But though my slumber was gone by, This dream it would not pass away— It seems to live upon my eye' And thence I vow'd this self-same day, With music strong and saintly song To wander through the forest bare, Lestaught unholy loiter there.
Thus Bracy said: the Baron, the while,
Half-listening heard him with a smile;
Then turn'd to Lady Geraldine,
His eyes made up of wonder and love;
And said in courtly accents fine,
Sweet maid! Lord Roland's beauteous dove,
With arms more strong than harp or song,