« AnteriorContinuar »
Then spoke the bride's father, his hand on his
THE EVE OF ST. AGNES. sword (For the poor craven bridegroom said never a Sr. Agnes' EvE, - ah, bitter chill it was ! word),
The owl, for all his feathers, was a-cold ; “O, come ye in peace here, or come ye in war, The hare limped trembling through the frozen Or to dance at our bridal, young Lord Lochin
And silent was the flock in woolly fold : “I long wooed your daughter, my suit
Numb were the beadsman's fingers while he told
rosary, and while his frosted breath,
Seemed taking fight for heaven without a death, And now I am come, with this lost love of mine, Past the sweet virgin's picture, while his prayer
he saith. To lead but one measure, drink one cup of wine. There are maidens in Scotland more lovely by far, His prayer he saith, this patient, holy man; That would gladly be bride to the young Loch- Then takes his lamp, and riseth from his knees, invar."
And back returneth, meagre, barefoot, wan, The bride kissed the goblet ; the knight took it Along the chapel aisle by slow degrees ; up,
The sculptured dead on each side seem to freeze, He quaffed off the wine, and threw down the cup. Emprisoned in black, purgatorial rails ; She looked down to blush, and she looked up to Knights, ladies, praying in dumb orat’ries, sigh,
He passeth by; and his weak spirit fails With a smile on her lips, and a tear in her eye. To think how they may ache in icy hoods and He took her soft hand, ere her mother could mails.
bar, "Now tread we a measure," said young Loch. Northward he turneth through a little door, invar.
And scarce three steps, ere music's golden tongue
Flattered to tears this aged man and poor ; So stately his form, and so lovely her face, But no, — already had his death-bell rung; That never a hall such a galliard did grace ; The joys of all his life were said and sung : While her mother did fret, and her father did His was harsh penance on St. 'Agnes' Eve : fume,
Another way he went, and soon among And the bridegroom stood dangling his bonnet Rough ashes sat he for his soul's reprieve, and plume;
And all night kept awake, for sinners' sake to And the bridemaidens whispered, “ 'T were bet grieve.
ter by far To have matched our fair cousin with young That ancient beadsman heard the prelude soft : Lochinvar."
And so it chanced, for many a door was wide,
From hurry to and fro. Soon, up aloft, One touch to her hand, and one word in her ear, The silver, snarling trumpets 'gan to chide ; When they reached the hall-door, and the charger The level chambers, ready with their pride, stood near ;
Were glowing to receive a thousand guests : So light to the croupe the fair lady he swung, The carved angels, ever eager-eyed, So light to the saddle before her he sprung ; Stared, where upon their heads the cornice rests, “She is won ! we are gone ! over bank, bush, with hair blown back, and wings put crosswise and scaur ;
on their breasts. They 'll have feet steeds that follow," quoth young Lochinvar.
At length burst in the argent revelry, There was mounting 'mong Græmes of the Neth. With plume, tiara, and all rich array,
Numerous as shadows haunting fairily erby clan; Forsters, Fenwicks, and Musgraves, they rode The brain, new-stuffed, in youth, with triumphs and they ran ;
Of old romance. These let us wish away;
And turn, sole-thoughted, to one lady there,
Whose heart had brooded, all that wintry day, So daring in love, and so dauntless in war, Have ye e'er heard of gallant like young Loch- On love, and winged St. Agnes’ saintly care,
As she had heard old dames full many times invar ?
SIR WALTER SCOTT.
They told her how, upon St. Agnes' Eve, He startled her ; but soon she knew his face, Young virgins might have visions of delight, And grasped his fingers in her palsied hand, And soft adorings from their loves receive Saying, “Mercy, Porphyro! hie thee from this Upon the honeyed middle of the night,
place; If ceremonies due they did aright;
They are all here to-night, the whole bloodAs, supperless to bed they must retire,
thirsty race! And couch supine their beauties, lily white; Nor look behind, nor sideways, but require “Get hence ! get hence ! there's dwarfish HildeOf heaven with upward eyes for all that they
brand ; desire.
He had a fever late, and in the fit
He cursed thee and thine, both house and land; Full of this whim was thoughtful Madeline ; Then there's that old Lord Maurice, not a whit The music, yearning like a god in pain,
More tame for his
hairs Alas me! Alit! She scarcely heard ; her maiden eyes divine, Flit like a ghost away !". “Ah, gossip dear, Fixed on the floor, saw many a sweeping train We're safe enough ; here in this arm-chair sit, Pass by, - she heeded not at all ; in vain And tell me how “Good saints! not here, Came many a tiptoe, amorous cavalier,
not here; And back retired, not cooled by high disdain. Follow me, child, or else these stones will be thy But she saw not; her heart was otherwhere;
bier." She sighed for Agnes' dreams, the sweetest of the year.
He followed through a lowly arched way,
Brushing the cobwebs with his lofty plume; She danced along with vague, regardless eyes, Anxious her lips, her breathing quick and short; He found him in a little moonlight room,
And as she muttered, “Well-a -- well-a-day!" The hallowed hour was near at hand ; she sighs Pale, latticed, chill, and silent as a tomb. Amid the timbrels, and the thronged resort
“Now tell me where is Madeline,” said he, Of whisperers in anger, or in sport ; Mid looks of love, defiance, hate, and scorn,
"O, tell me, Angela, by the holy loom
Which none but secret sisterhood may see, Hoodwinked with fairy fancy ; all amort
When they St. Agnes' wool are weaving piously." Save to St. Agnes and her lambs unshorn, And all the bliss to be before to-morrow morn.
“St Agnes! Ah! it is St. Agnes' Eve, – So, purposing each moment to retire,
Yet men will murder upon holy days ;
To venture so.
It fills me with amaze Buttressed from moonlight, stands he, and im- To see thee, Porphyro ! St. Agnes' Eve ! plores
God's help! my lady fair the conjurer plays All saints to give him sight of Madeline ; This very night; good angels her deceive ! But for one moment in the tedious hours, But let me laugh awhile, I've mickle time to That he might gaze and worship all unseen ;
grieve." Perchance speak, kneel, touch, kiss, - in sooth such things have been.
Feebly she laugheth in the languid moon,
While Porphyro upon her face doth look, He ventures in : let no buzzed whisper tell : Like puzzled urchir on an aged crone All eyes be muffled, or a hundred swords Who keepeth closed a wondrous riddle-book, Will storm his heart, love's feverous citadel ; As spectacled she sits in chimney nook. For him, those chambers held barbarian hordes, But soon his eyes grew brilliant, when she told Hyena foemen, and hot-blooded lords,
His lady's purpose ; and he scarce could brook Whose very dogs would execrations howl Tears, at the thought of those enchantments cold, Against his lineage ; not one breast affords And Madeline asleep in lap of legends old. Him any mercy, in that mansion foul, Save one old beldame, weak in body and in soul. Sudden a thought came like a full-blown rose,
Flushing his brow, and in his painèd heart Ah, happy chance ! the aged creature came, Made purple riot; then doth he propose Shuffling along with ivory-headed wand, A stratagem, that makes the beldame start: To where he stood, hid from the torch's flame, “A cruel man and impious thou art ! Behind a broad hall-pillar, far beyond
Sweet lady, let her pray, and sleep and dream The sound of merriment and chewus bland. Alone with her good angels, far apart
From wicked men like thee. Go, go! I deem Where Porphyro took covert, pleased amain. Thou canst not surely be the same that thou His poor guide hurried back with agues in her didst seem.”
“I will not harm her, by all saints I swear!” Her faltering hand upon the balustrade, Quoth Porphyro; “0, may I ne'er find grace Old Angela was feeling for the stair, When my weak voice shall whisper its last When Madeline, St. Agnes' charmed maid, prayer,
Rose, like a missioned spirit, unaware ; If one of her soft ringlets I displace,
With silver taper's light, and pious care, Or look with ruffian passion in her face : She turned, and down the aged gossip led Good Angela, believe me by these tears ;
To a safe level matting. Now prepare, Or I will, even in a moment's space,
Young Porphyro, for gazing on that bed! Awake, with horrid shout, my foemen's ears, She comes, she comes again, like ring-dove And beard them, though they be more fanged frayed and fled. than wolves and bears."
Out went the taper as she hurried in ; "Ah ! why wilt thou affright a feeble soul? Its little smoke, in pallid moonshine, died ; A poor, weak, palsy-stricken, churchyard thing, She closed the door, she panted, all akin Whose passing-bell may ere the midnight toll ; To spirits of the air, and visions wide ; Whose prayers for thee, each morn and evening, No uttered syllable, or, woe betide ! Were never missed.” Thus plaining, doth she But to her heart, her heart was voluble, bring
Paining with eloquence her balmy side ; A gentler speech from burning Porphyro; As though a tongueless nightingale should swell So woful, and of such deep sorrowing,
Her throat in vain, and die, heart-stifled in her That Angela gives promise she will do
dell. Whatever he shall wish, betide her weal or woe.
A casement high and triple-arched there was, Which was, to lead him, in close secrecy, All garlanded with carven imageries Even to Madeline's chamber, and there hide Of fruits, and flowers, and bunches of knot-grass, Him in a closet, of such privacy
And diamonded with panes of quaint device, That he might see her beauty unespied,
Innumerable of stains and splendid dyes, And win perhaps that night a peerless bride, As are the tiger-moth's deep-damasked wings; While legioned fairies paced the coverlet, And in the midst, 'mong thousand heraldries, And pale enchantment held her sleepy-eyed. And twilight saints, and dim emblazonings, Never on such a night have lovers met,
A shielded scutcheon blushed with blood of Since Merlin paid his demon all the monstrous queens and kings. debt.
Full on this casement shone the wintry moon, “ It shall be as thou wishest,” said the dame ; And threw warm gules on Madeline's fair breast, "All cates and dainties shall be stored there As down she knelt for heaven's grace and boon ; Quickly on this feast-night ; by the tambour Rose-bloom fell on her hands, together prest, frame
And on her silver cross soft amethyst, Her own lute thou wilt see ; no time to spare, And on her hair a glory, like a saint ; For I am slow and feeble, and scarce dare She seemed a splendid angel, newly drest, On such a catering trust my dizzy head. Save wings, for heaven. Porphyro grew faint : Wait here, my child, with patience kneel in She knelt, so pure a thing, so free from mortal prayer
taint. The while. Ah ! thou must needs the lady wed, Or may I never leave my grave among the dead.' Anon his heart revives ; her vespers done,
Of all its wreathed pearls her hair she frees; So saying, she hobbled off with busy fear. Unclasps her warmèd jewels one by one ; The lover's endless minutes slowly passed : Loosens her fragrant bodice; by degrees The dame returned, and whispered in his ear Her rich attire creeps rustling to her knees ; To follow her; with aged eyes aghast
Hall hidden, like a mermaid in sea-weed, From fright of dim espial. Safe at last,
Pensive awhile she dreams awake, and sees, Through many a dusky gallery, they gain In fancy, fair St. Agnes in her bed, The maiden's chamber, silken, hushed and But dares not look behind, or all the charm is chaste;
Soon, trembling in her soft and chilly nest, The lustrous salvers in the moonlight gleam ;
From such a steadfast spell his lady's eyes ;
In Provence called “ La belle dame sans merci ;”
Close to her ear touching the melody ; Stolen to this paradise, and so entranced, Wherewith disturbed, she uttered a soft moan : Porphyro gazed upon her empty dress,
He ceased ; she panted quick, — and suddenly And listened to her breathing, if it chanced Her blue affrayed eyes wide
shone : To wake into a slumberous tenderness ;
Upon his knees he sank, pale as smooth-sculptured Which when he heard, that minute did he bless, stone. And breathed himself; then from the closet crept,
Her eyes were open, but she still beheld, Noiseless as fear in a wide wilderness,
Now wide awake, the vision of her sleep. And over the hushed carpet, silent, stept,
There was a painful change, that nigh expelled And 'tween the curtains peeped, where, lo!- The blisses of her dream so pure and deep; how fast she slept.
At which fair Madeline began to weep,
And moan forth witless words with many a sigh ; Then by the bedside, where the faded moon While still her gaze on Porphyro would keep; Made a dim, silver twilight soft he set
Who knelt, with joined hands and piteous eye, A table, and, half anguished, threw thereon Fearing to move or speak, she looked so dream. A cloth of woven crimson, gold, and jet :
Made tunable with every sweetest vow ; The hall-door shuts again, and all the noise is And those sad eyes were spiritual and clear ; gone.
How changed thou art ! how pallid, chill, and
drear ! And still she slept an azure-lidded sleep, Give me that voice again, my Porphyro, In blanched linen, smooth, and lavendered ; Those looks immortal, those complainings dear ! While he from forth the closet brought a heap 0, leave me not in this eternal woe, Of candied apple, quince, and plum, and gourd ; For if thou diest, my love, I know not where to go.” With jellies soother than the creamy curd, And lucent syrops, tinct with cinnamon ; Beyond a mortal man impassioned far Manna and dates, in argosy transferred
At these voluptuous accents, he arose, From Fez ; and spicèd dainties, every one,
Ethereal, flushed, and like a throbbing star From silken Samarcand to cedared Lebanon.
Seen mid the sapphire heaven's deep repose ;
Into her dream he melted, as the rose
Solution sweet ; meantime the frost-wind blows
Against the window-panes : St. Agnes' moon Filling the chilly room with perfume light. –
hath set. “And now, my love, my seraph fair, awake ! Thou art my heaven, and I thine eremite ; 'T is dark ; quick pattereth the flaw-blown sleet: Open thine eyes, for meek St. Agnes' sake, “This is no dream, my bride, my Madeline !" Or I shall drowse beside thee, so my soul doth 'T is dark ; the iced gusts still rave and beat : ache.”
“No dream ? alas ! alas! and woe is mine!
Porphyro will leave me here to fade and pine. Thus whispering, his warm, unnerved arm Cruel ! what traitor could thee hither bring? Sank in her pillow. Shaded was her dream I curse not, for my heart is lost in thine, By the dusk curtains; -- 't was a miduight charm Though thou forsakest a deceived thing ;Impossible to melt as iced stream :
A dove forlorn and lost, with sick, unpruned wing."
“My Madeline ! sweet dreamer ! lovely bride! And the last rays kissed the forehead of a man Say, may I be for aye thy vassal blest?
and maiden fair, — Thy beauty's shield, heart-shaped and vermeil He with footsteps slow and weary, she with dyed ?
sunny floating hair ; Ah, silver shrine, here will I take my rest He with bowed head, sad and thoughtful, she After so many hours of toil and quest,
with lips all cold and white,
“Sexton,” Bessie's white lips faltered, pointing
to the prison old, .“ Hark! 't is an elfin storm from faery land, With its turrets tall and gloomy, with its walls Of haggard seeming, but a boon indeed :
dark, damp, and cold, Arise, arise ! the morning is at hand ; –
“I've a lover in that prison, doomed this very The bloated wassailers will never heed :
night to die, Let us away, my love, with happy speed ; At the ringing of the Curfew, and no earthly There are no ears to hear, or eyes to see,
help is nigh; Drowned all in Rhenish and the sleepy mead :
Cromwell will not come till sunset," and her Awake, arise, my love, and fearless be,
lips grew strangely white For o'er the southern moors I have a home for As she breathed the husky whisper : thee."
“Curfew must not ring to-night." She hurried at his words, beset with fears, • Bessie," calmly spoke the sexton, - every word For there were sleeping dragons all around,
pierced her young heart At glaring watch, perhaps, with ready spears ;
Like the piercing of an arrow, like a deadly Down the wide stairs a darkling way they found,
poisoned dart, In all the house was heard no human sound. “Long, long years I've rung the Curfew from that A chain-drooped lamp was flickering by each door ; gloomy, shadowed tower ; The arras, rich with horseman, hawk, and hound, Every evening, just at sunset, it has told the Fluttered in the besieging wind's uproar ;
twilight hour; And the long carpets rose along the gusty floor. I have done my duty ever, tried to do it just
Curfew, it must ring to-night."
Wild her eyes and pale her features, stern and The wakeful bloodhound rose, and shook his hide,
white her thoughtful brow, But his sagacious eye an inmate owns ;
As within her secret bosom Bessie made a solemn By one, and one, the bolts full easy slide ; The chains lie silent on the footworn stones;
She had listened while the judges read without The key turns, and the door upon its hinges groans.
a tear or sigh :
“At the ringing of the Curfew, Basil Underwood And they are gone ! ay, ages long ago
must die." These lovers fled away into the storm.
And her breath came fast and faster, and her 'That night the baron dreamt of many a woe,
eyes grew large and bright;
With quick step she bounded forward, sprung Died palsy-twitched, with mengre face deform;
within the old church door, The beadsman, after thousand aves told, For aye unsought-for slept among his ashes cold.
Left the old man threading slowly paths so oft
he'd trod before ; JOHN KEATS.
Not one moment paused the maiden, but with
eye and cheek aglow CURFEW MUST NOT RING TO-NIGHT. Mounted up the gloomy tower, where the bell
swing to and fro SLOWLY England's sun was setting o'er the hill. As she climbed the dusty ladder on which fell uo tops far away,
ray of light, Filling all the land with beauty at the close of Up and up, – her white lips saying : one sad day.
“Curfew must not ring to-night."