Capel Lofft

Ernest: The Rule Of Right - Book V

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BOOK V.
So did the sire and son hold their discourse,
Meeting in love, but haply e'er they left
Wishing a wider room between their lives
For their love's likelier growth--lest having lost
Already its main substance, it should lose
Even its show, in bickering sullenness,
Sinking from chill to cold--meeting thenceforth
As shadows meet, darkly, ungenially,
And so pass scowling by.
Ah! who can look
Upon such passages in life as this,
'Strangement of blood from blood, father 'gainst son,
Satanic eld 'gainst youth, fraud against faith;
Nor blush for manhood? Ah, man's worshipful grace,
Grace or grimace, both worshipful alike!
And oh the ape's grin, yet more worshipful
And worthier! for it shams no feeling, and speaks
No lie; nor slaves itself to any ape-gang
In manacled companionship, where each
Being bound by such shrewd ties as cut to the quick
Whome'er they bind, must bear both gall and jar
When his gang-fellow, starting frowardly,
Or swerving waywardly from his right line,
Or flinging himself foully on the path,
Drags the whole chain awry.
How shallow then
The dreamy Turk, who asked and got that sad
Soul gift of insight, to scan thoro'ly
Each worldling's heart. Alas! that sight once seen
In its fair-seeming whited hideous
Foulness, no kindly man would look again.
Much rather would he tear the memory
From his mind, and fling it back where it belongs
To the soul-sewer, unknown, unregister'd.
But conscience hath no fellow, save itself--
Communes with none beside. God willed it so--
Else could belief ne'er be--for that means love,
And who can love what's hateful? drear were life?
If man with man were conscious: but now Faith
Covers our brethren's sins with seeming worth
For charity to cherish. Ignorance
Most blissful! for our faith in other men
Outwardly working doth reflect from them,
Tho' all unworthy, its radiance on ourselves.
For godliness and kindness as they work
So grow. 'Tis thus Faith leads wandering souls,
Others perhaps, howe'er its own, from the world
To God, with holy life quickens the dead,
Hallows that world itself to Eden, and hearts
From fiend to angel; spreading heaven-like,
O'er earth: for heaven is theirs who live from it.
They, in mean time, the inmates of that house,
Were busied with much care: Hermann that morn
In tremulous hurry had bidden them farewell
And homeward sped. Faith, a short stay, for one
Whose heart was rooted there: but why such haste?
Was it that Time was slow within those walls,
And therefore he would shorten it? or did stress
Of needful business overbear his will,
Bidding him far away? or did the brow
Of that fair maiden frown upon him then,
Erewhile so gracious? or the radiance
Of one yet fairer did it light his hope
Another way? No matter--little avails
To guess what none may know. Only he's gone:
And if that parting hour to him was sad,
'Twas tearful sorrow to a softer heart.
The careful mother marked her daughter's brow
Woefully drooping, and thus asked her why:--
"Lucy, the sun is golden bright,
The sky is azure clear,
And all is full of joy and light--
Oh, be of better cheer--
And tell me, whither hast thou been
To catch thy fit of care?
For in thee only is it seen,
And all is gay elsewhere.
Prithee, is aught upon thy heart?
For sure if crosses fall
A guileless maiden as thou art,
Should tell her mother all."
"Mother, thou knowest all I know--
I've often heard thee say,
There's many a cloud that will not go
However bright the day.
And sometimes we are like to smile,
And then to weep again;
Unknowing wherefore all the while,
In pleasure as in pain:
And I felt something of distress;
Some dark and dismal fear;
And, for I knew it foolishness,
I came to hide it here."
"Nay, Lucy, hide what else you will,
But hide not truth from me:
For truth beseems a maiden still,
Whate'er the trouble be.
For thou hast wept, and in thine eye
I see the glistening tear;
And when a girl weeps silently,
A mother must needs fear.
The clouds upon a virgin face
Full lightly come and go;
But tears, and thine have left their trace,
Spring deeper from below."
"Yes, Mother, I will tell thee true,
And I have wept full sore;
And let me weep, 'tis sorrow's due,
Or I must grieve the more."
"Ah, then thou lovest--sure 'tis so--
For nought but love could bow
A pretty maiden's heart so low
As thine is bent e'en now;
But when did love become a crime?
A thing of shame and scorn?
'Twas not so rated in my time--
Or thou had'st ne'er been born.
And other youthful hearts are light,
And why should'st thou despair,
With brow so high and eye so bright
And golden flowing hair?
And soon will Linsingen be here--
And he hath much to say--
Will sound like music in thine ear,
And grief will then away."
"But he is come of lofty line:
And, courteous tho' he be,
Yet never can I call him mine:
He may not stoop to me.
No--never can he share our lot--
Then wherefore dream in vain?
Oh leave me to this lowly cot,
And name him not again."
The maiden ceased: the mother looked on her
With such a look as thro' the shrinking eye
Pierces the heart in penetration keen:
Angrily at the first, then earnestly;
So to discern by the significance
Shown in that proud face, scorning subterfuge,
What spirit prompted that unwelcome speech.
She feared, for much it had misgiven her
(Since her child lost her mirthful laugh, nor spoke
Her feelings, only now and then a sigh,
Swiftly suppressed, by stern self-gathering will),
That there lay something lodged within her heart
Too deep for words.
Oft had that dame discoursed
(For sorrow from its darkness loves to look
Up to the slightest chink that lets light in,
And with it hope,) of the young Linsingen,
His wealth, his youth, his looks, his forefathers,
All that commends to man in the eyes of world
Wisdom: she spoke; and her fair daughter heard,
And, haply, listened; but, it might well be,
Felt not at all; or feel whate'er she might
'Twas no such feeling as her mother would.
Enough. Her after woes will trace their way
Clearer than words. Only thus much is sure.
That this most wary mother, knowing well
That Love, when scant, is but a beggar boy,
And, likely, wretched in his beggary,
Wretched the more as waking from rich dreams;
This having learned, as trial taught her truth,
Not knowingly alone, but feelingly,
In daily desolation of her heart;
Fain would she compensate her own sad chance
With a golden wedlock for her child achieved;
Its substance for her child, and for herself,
Its rich reflected radiance, happier yet,
To be the comfort of her later life.
Therefore on Hermann, so bethinking her,
Cold was her countenance, as being one
Who must win wealth, if ever, by self-will
And strength, no other likelihood--but then
His lofty hopes, o'erlooking his own ends,
Aimed mainly at the welfare of mankind,
A mark tho' fair, yet barren, cold, far off,
As a lone glacier--rich with many rills
To fertilize and bless the nether earth,
But fruitless for itself.
From such a man
Her eager eyes would turn to Linsingen,
As to an angel; should take, once for all,
Her darling's hand, and lead her, both but one,
To Paradise. Howe'er, to a worthier home
From her hard father's house: leaving that house
No blank, but a rich blessing in her stead:
Not lost, but gained. So did the mother hope:
And as she hoped, she trusted too awhile.
"For is not my pale Girl, tho' proud, and oft
Self-wrapped in her broad forehead's thought, yet most
Gentle, and to my will, as a gentle boat
To its own wilful stream; stirring not, save
From that stream's influence?" Such her self-sure dream;
Else, her lone maiden to choose frowardly,
Like any strange wonder, had startled her,
Shocking all forecast--
Thus foreweeningly
Had she set up her trust for the whole truth;
Rating all other unwelcome likelihood
At a straw's rate: nor minding that the young
Eye, from its rash self-will beholding all,
Not with the artifice and glass of Eld;
Eager, but inconsiderate of search,
Doth oft forerun wisdom with wishfulness,
Taking for gold sand-glitter, a wild hope
For toil-won harvestage. Such is youth's law.
But, for that law is not calf-bound in books,
Nor by the crier trumpeted abroad,
The hopeful matron never heeded it,
When 'twere most need. Yet something, of late time,
Had she mistrusted in the things she saw,
Watching more warily--and this out-flash,
So sudden, from her daughter's cloudiness,
And speechless sighs, lighted suspicion in
Where surety slept so long--she set herself,
Forthwith, to wring the spongy secret out;
And so had done; for with such hope at stake
A mother's head is hard, and maiden hearts
Are all as soft: so, what she could, she would,
Tho' with it she had wrung the life-blood forth
To its last drop. But he, on whose behalf
She was solicitous, sudden appeared,
While yet his noble name was in their ears,
Himself in nobler presence to their eyes,
Her life, her joy her own pride--Linsingen.
His coming was unseen--but, ere he came,
The watch-dog bayed his welcome: that was enough
To hint him near at hand: for the dame's mind
With his loved likeness was so wholly filled,
That any far slight token seen or heard
She had asked, is it he? then were glad looks,
And words made kinder than their inhold was,
By the heart-breathing voice: greetings and smiles
Profuse, as from a mother to her son,
Long lost and late restored: high is the worth
That such sweet tokens of affection bear;
And yet, as Linsingen then reckoned them,
One only jewel tear, glittering in the eye
Of the soft maiden who stood silent there,
O'erpriced them all. That tear rose suddenly
From her troubled heart, as bubbles from the wave,
Betokening inward stir--but of that stir
Showing no sign, wherefore or whence it came,
No more than doth the rainbow. Yet 'twas a tear
Such as bedews the burning cheek of Love,
And being so, to Linsingen's belief,
It was not such alone; but the self-same--
So Love would have it. Well--Hail to thee, Faith,
For thou art happiness; thou feel'st in the heart,
What ownership weighs coldly in the hand,
And he who hath thee is blest--blest against all
The world without, as Linsingen was then.
For his head, what was it, but his glowing heart,
Brimful with its warm flood; and gushing o'er
Whither his fond faith willed. Truly could worth
Here in this world give warranty to man
Of welfare, then his faith had been fulfilled,
And would it were! Then Fortune, if for once
Her bandage were unblinded from her eyes
Could show no surer proof of random luck
Changed to discernment and considerate doom,
Than by her sanction of a soul like him
Crowning his highest hope--
He was a man
Of high nobility, yet simple too,
As any lonely loreless shepherd's boy,
And careless of self-claims; giving much grace
To his high house, but needing none therefrom,
As living from that true and inward light
Which shames the false: so, in self-stand, he scorned
Rotten hearse-trappings of dead mouldering dust,
A manly soul, strong in his manliness--
Prouder without pride's plume. He'd felt erewhile
The gripe of neediness, and fought against
Her iron claws barehanded--friends were few--
Kindred far off, and nature but a name--
Nor common blood scarce more compassionate
Than the cold water of the common pool.
So they were nought to him, nor he to them,
And in his bitterness oft his heart yearned
For the chill blank that Aristocracy
Offered him, bloodily to blot it out.
So were the world well rid. But hate and scorn
Howe'er they nurse them in the inmost heart
Keep not the body warm--nor drive the wolf
From the door. What 'vails, against his spiteful teeth
And fangs, to show our own.
So having spent
His all, save one poor plank to outride the wreck,
To that same plank he did commit himself,
Swim or else sink--leaving behind him nought
But emptiness for who came after him,
And curses for his kin--so he launched forth:
Wishing no other terms with those he left,
But a far offing: and a little farm
That in its littleness had been o'erlooked,
When ruin smote the rest, he made his home:
Reckless, as any swallow, of the world
He left behind: Then he flung clean away
The thought of what so lately he had been,
As 'twere the cobbler's dream of pageantry;
And that high flying spirit now kept wing
Evenly, with this new life's lowliness.
Thus his safe level he found; and having thrown
His silly foolish lendings off from him,
'Stead of the puffy feathery things he was
Stood up, a stalwart stripling. Thence, unthralled
From idleness, and highborn beggary,
He found his loss the greatest gain of all,
From follies clear'd, a fair free opening field.
Aye, and no lack of wholesome growth, from farm,
Orchard or garden; till he came to love
That boor-like swilth more than his lordly fare;
Since truly earned by toil--nor yet his sports
Did he forego, nor pastime, wont of old,
But what was then a spendthrift gulf he made
Gainful, with gun and dog ranging his fields
While overwatching his hired hands withal.
Thence striding often straight away to the wild
Neighbouring moorlands, trackless, boundless, bleak;
No trace of toil, nor token of ownership:
Unhindered, thus he followed, year on year,
His wilful way, till--a most luckless time--
There came among the mountains a strange man
And claimed them to be his. As the babe cries,
"My toy, give me my toy;" for were they not
As truly now and lawfully his own
As they were once God's who created them?
And he was asked, how were those mountains his
More than the sea or sky, who ne'er had tilled,
No, nor e'en trodden them: and then he showed
For all his answer an old wither'd skin
O'erwritten with strange words: some wizard sure
Had traced them; for "here," so he said, "I hold
In hand, aye in these sheep-skins, yon whole ridge
Of mountain, east and west; yes, these are those,
And those are these; three skins cover them all,
From the whole world to me--who says me nay,
Better in words keep his denial close,
Nor act it out." All this to Linsingen
Seemed idle, as a drunken dotard's dream,
Nor better worth a thought: so on he held,
Heeding no more such stay than a witch's straw
To bar his path--but danger, when least deemed,
Her deadliest weapons oftentimes doth wear
(Even as Treason hath been crafty mad,)
'Neath an uncouth disguise. That owner's ill
Words ripen'd to worse deeds: for wilfulness,
Whate'er it doth for pleasure, suffers more
In pain. The law, which slept not, tho' for years
It seemed to sleep, sharp as a snare of steel,
And subtle, caught him in the open act
And held him fast, spite of his hands and teeth,
Till she had wreaked on him her uttermost--
A galling shackle; wrung him sorer yet
Striving to rid it; vainly, what he bore:
Ill, he must rue the worse--and the after-thought
Was very bitterness. So did his pride
Beget upon his hate a hatefully
Proud issue: and the old disdain, that stem
Of evil, that was slowly dying out,
Now, pruned by the law's knife, sprang up afresh
With many shoots. Sad upshot! for thenceforth
He mated him with reckless fellows wild,
Whose deeds were not of day, but such as gave
To night a darker shadow than its own:
Poachers on river, over moor, in wood,
As chance seemed likeliest; smugglers, or they
Who share the smuggler's risk of loss or gain;
Selling uncustom'd wares: those and the like,
With wilfulness akin to wickedness,
He took unto him, not for their own sakes,
But for they outraged those who hated him;
Whom yet, as a good Christian, he should love,
And would he had--but did not--
So he lived
Awhile; and all that life was broken law,
Confounding rule with riot; bursting bounds,
Daring the worst of danger, day by day,
Till daring became feverish hankering thirst,
With danger for its diet--so high-strained
Is but short-lived--outrage and penalty
Crossing so often must needs meet at last:
As he ere long had felt. But Fortune's sun,
Suddenly shining, cleared his outward cloud--
But not his own worse vapours from within--
However, luck befriended him--if that
Be friendly to pour down on him a flood
Where only showers were needed. Such a gush
Of wealth, so strange, as hurried his life-stream
With swirling glut to overswell its banks--
Nor did he long contain him--for that turn
Of fortune turned his thought and working will
From his late wont of riotous recklessness
To a stern earnest aim. "This wealth--'tis mine--
How best avail it? as a lever, so
To raise me to their level?--ah no! in hate
I left them, and in hate must turn on them;
For this new hate is bitterer than the old,
Since it hath better means to wreak itself.
No, then; this lever--'tis to overthrow,
Not raise--o'erthrow their pride--then huddle them
Aheap--and tread them with their frippery
Of straw and feather in the main mixed clay--
Make bricks of them--ah, good!"
So all his means,
Friends, talents, time, and utmost faculties,
He flung them, coldly, in that darkling gulf
To swell the flood. Such was the man, who then
Left Treason for awhile to follow Love.
"Welcome, honoured ladies dear,
I have sought ye far and near;
Orchard, house, and garden round,
Sought ye far, but nowhere found.
First they said, in gipsy mood,
You were wandering thro' the wood
For wild strawberries and flowers--
There I lost--how many hours!
Next--should find you without fail
With th' old widow in the vale.
Then--but endless 'tis to roam--
Happiness is here at home.
So, I greet ye, ladies dear,
Your true knight, befal whate'er,
And my page doth follow me,
Childe of donkey chivalry,
Spurring without fail or fear,
With banner'd, no--but panier'd cheer.
Wine and wassail--but to me
Slight their worth to what I see,
Lucy, that fruit, found by thee--
Gather'd by thy hand--yes, thine--
Take all this, but that is mine;
But, 'tis time we should be gone,
See, the hours are speeding on,
And the sun and summer sky
Speak more winningly than I.
We shall find our baskets spread
There by the lone fountain head:
And this pony, safely tried,
Lucy, 'tis for thee to ride:
Only let me be his guide--
Thine too--and ere the close of day
This one guerdon wilt thou pay--
As we go, of hill and sky
To ask their hospitality,
Playing so the gipsy's part--
Look thou prove their witching art.
Read my Fate, my Fortune tell,
For thou only hast that spell.
With the yet more happy skill,
To frame that Fortune at thy will."
Gaily he spoke, yet earnestly, to both
Aloud--but his heart's feeling to his own
Dear maiden's ear. Yet had he put those words
Into a trumpet blast, and sounded them
Till echo's self were stunned, not so had he told
His tale more clearly to the matron's mind
Than by that soft suppression; that betrays
Thro' silence, surer than the shrillest sound.
The love that thrills the daughter's heart, gives too
Some token to the mother's head, that what
One feels the other knows. That chord outlives
The severance of birth, binding the two
By consciousness--communion, happy indeed
Where mutual wills meet in one kindly bond
With common knowledge. Else, if they stand off,
Sundered, as oft betides, and wholly averse,
Most comfortless. Oh Love, where wert thou schooled?
Who taught thee such a stretch of tyranny,
That thou must brag thy strength against their tried
Kindness, before whose wiser eldership
That strength should bow down, and forego itself,
Biding rebukal. Wherefore dost set up
Fathers and dearest friends, to stand for foes,
Only to strike them down? Vaunting thyself
Therein most wantonly, where pity were
Indeed but Nature; and the unnatural
Only are pitiless--pluming thy pride
E'en with those tender plumes which the parent birds
Plucked from their bosom for the homely nest
Which thou dost scatter in air--avaunt--away.
Ere this the sun was high, and the time ripe
They should go forth--so forth gaily they went,
The mother and the daughter, lover and sire--
One kin--if minds alas! were kindred too--
With them the old serving-man, grafted, years back,
Upon their stem, when the sun shone on them,
And growing evermore, weather alike,
As there home-born. Nor went they all alone--
For kindness loves communion of its joy;
But with them from their neighbours' friendly homes
Three merry village maids pranked in their best,
And five stout lads, unfashioned, yet with hearts
Warm as the ruddy colour of their cheeks
And manhood all as true;--brothers, or yet
Dearer to them than brothers, for love's sake.
In faith, a joyous train: enough of glee
Already to fulfil their holiday
Tho' it should bring none else. So they sped forth
Afoot, astride, or on the panier'd ass
Chancewise, blithe caroling: a motley throng
As the outlandish gipsy wanderers
Shifting their tawny canvas, ever on,
With careless change.
"My friend," cried Linsingen,
Shouting above their jovial noisy talk;
"'Tis mirth is now the matter of our day,
And music is mirth's kin--but music self
In these wild hills would hardly know itself
If the harp were wanting. To the harpers, then,
'Tis but a short while round, and he--his worth
Hath earned us all, right well." So said so done.
There lay the hovel in sight, and soon their speed
Had overrun that space. The greybeard sate
In his trim garden, glad of the sun's warmth,
Vital as to his flowers, so to him,
In his chill years. He heard their mirth afar,
Strangely, for mirth and he were strange long since,
And wondered what it meant; nor wondered long:
For Linsingen, forth spurring, in few words
Spake his kind wish, and the old man answered him.
"Yes, gladly will I go with thee:
For, Master, thou art dear to me:
And be it sun or be it snow,
With thee full gladly will I go.
For ever cheerly do I play,
When thou dost listen to my lay:
And there my fancy's liveliest,
Where thou art bidden for a guest.
For thou art come of high degree,
A royal spirit breathes from thee;
And lines of kingship I might trace,
Ere vision failed me, in thy face.
Then on that face I loved to look,
Like one who reads an old-world book:
And now I love thy voice to hear,
It tells old histories to my ear:
And be the strain whate'er it may,
Ever thou feelest as I play:
For thou hast fire within thy heart:
But others are not as thou art.
No--for tho' many a one doth call
The lonely harper to his hall,
That he may be a stranger's show,
Yet, Master, am I loath to go.
For 'tis not that they love my skill;
But their pride wantons so its will;
And they would welcome all as well
Some trickster with his wizard spell.
Nor e'er, as they sit idly by,
Doth the fire kindle in their eye:
They would but mock the gifted glance
Of the wild spirit in its trance.
For, tho' such tale be strange to tell,
I know it for a truth full well:
There dwells a Spirit in these strings,
And when I strike the Spirit sings.
It sings--and if the guests among
It find an answer to its song,
Ah, then, how raptured is the lay!
Else must it sink and die away.
And when it dies, then all is dead;
My heart within me droops to lead:
My fingers, like the idiot lad,
Play idly while my heart is sad:
Yes--in the corner be it flung,
This harp where hearts are tamely strung:
For sooner fire may live in snow,
Than Harper breathe his spirit so.
Oh, then my soul was blithe and gay,
When Honour spirited my lay,
And every silver piece I told
Was changed by courtesy to gold.
But I am not in honour now--
And thou my harp--yes, even thou--
In my disgrace must bear thy part--
Oh, shame on them who scorn our art.
Their largess is a very loss--
Their choicest gifts to me are dross.
For poor I am, yet proud of soul,
And brook but ill their beggar's dole.
They flout me like a crazed old wife,
For my attire and wandering life:
Sure I were better in its stead
To break my harp and beg my bread.
Oh gentle Sir, thy heart had glowed
To see our festivals of o'd
A hundred harpers in the hall--
And I was crowned the chief all.
Now perished is the dyke should be
'Twixt clownish men and high degree:
The nobles cherish us no more
Than did the dullest churl of yore.
Noble--ah no--for they are gone--
And only churlish blood lives on--
And men who know not their own sires
Now lord it from their furnace fires.
Our breezes speak not of their fame;
Our mountains answer not their name:
In blood and tongue and spirit strange--
Oh what sad chance hath brought this change?
Nor love they mountain, tower, or rill:
Nor heed they of the harper's skill:
And tho' they prized it e'er so much,
Yet not for them were its true touch.
Oh for Llewellyn's stirring strain,
To wake the dead to life again!
A Spirit starting from the stone,
To rise and strike and seize its own.
And kindle patriot souls like thee,
To bid their Fatherland "be free,"
Free as the burst of my own song;
As yon wild torrent pours along.
Then, tho' that sight were doomed for me,
The latest of my life to be;
Welcome--for gladly would we die
In that heart-glow, my harp and I."
The old man ceased: and as speech failed, his tears
Like a soft shower when the gust is stilled,
'Gain filled his furrowed cheeks--genuine tears--
Not such as dotards--but a heart-fresh spring,
Forth from the smitten rock. His listener
Stood fixed in wonder how that mouldering stem
Should beget leaves so green: had hearkened him
Thro' all that fitful outbreak, wilful and wild,
Nor hearkened only, but the truths he heard
He felt them, as their woes had been his own
Stamped on his heart. There is full often a soul
In silence, and the words that feeling speaks
Are quick and penetrative thro' and thro',
That the heart thrilled by them, answers them not
Again--no outward answer, but as true
Kindred, without all question takes them home
To con them there within--so silently
Surrendering itself to sympathy;
Felt but unsaid. Conception hath no voice,
Nor sense--a life-shoot only, sudden and strange
Striking throughout. Thus Linsingen spake not
When that outflush of warmth flooded his soul,
But inly brooded all--how his high birth
Might further his high ends: for it behoved
His fancy such, and his ambition more--
If hope should e'er bear fruit--
But time is swift;
Too swift for lingering dreams. Then Linsingen,
Ere their dim wings had quite o'ershadowed him,
Scattered them with a start of energy,
To flee amain, like ghosts at the cock-crow,
Betokening day astir. He clapped the hat
On that grey head--handed the staff--then all
Forward--the young o'erbrimming with their glee,
The old rejoicing in their children's joy--
That kindly source, oft the lone one, that springs
In Eld's dry wilderness.
Sweet was the scene
As they streamed onward o'er the russet hills,
Those hills that smiled in sunshine, a warm smile
Of welcome. All beheld, and all were pleased:
Some that they felt sorrow more soothingly.
And other some, pleasure more pleasingly,
For Nature, like the holy mother, looks
Upon her children with a tempering look,
Calming all passion: and whate'er they feel,
Subduing it to take a milder tone,
Whether of joy or grief: still doth she show
Some soul of sweetness in her saddest hour,
Some shade of sadness in her sweetest smile:
As knowing all must fade, how bright soe'er--
Fade and then flower afresh.
Thus they went on,
Now in strait thread, now winding it, far round,
As the hills opened or else barred their way,
Nature's stern warders; following here some wild
Swift stream, tho' wayward, yet a cheerful guide;
There toiling up the steep, painful and hard:
Doubtful of footing, and that footing lost,
Sure of a headlong ruin, deep below,
Thundering down together, horse and man,
Crushed into one. That height, slowly attained,
With many a suspiration of hard breath,
And aching bones, straining on sullenly,
"For why should we be tasked so toilsomely
In such unwonted wise of holiday?"
Then would they halt awhile--halt, and look forth
Afar--beyond distinction of the eye;
Till dimness brooded under the sky-line,
And the end confounded all. Towers and spires
Looking in grey and mournful constancy
O'er the bright corn-fields' changeful livery;
Ruins mid Nature's ever-living green:
Wide waving forests frowning o'er the whole.
Orchards and parks, homesteads and hazy towns,
Scattered abroad like ships in boundless sea,
Such tiny motes as seem to magnify
The main. They looked, once and again; then turned,
In the eagerness of other gazing eyes,
And fellowship of gushing friendliness
To find fresh buoyancy and sparkling will
For fresh delight--like a tired thirsty man
Drinks from the spring, unsparely, draught on draught,
His much demanding more. The air of the hills--
Or Heav'n--for born between, it partook both,
Coursed like an elfin spirit thro' their blood,
Playing its frolic fancies on each brain,
Witching each heart; till merriment o'erflowed
With its own foam: they laughed and clapped their hands,
And age was youth, and youth was boyishness,
Bubbling and frothing in wild revelry,
As erst at its springhead.
So fared they all--
All save that pensive girl. Young Love, men say,
(But all such sayings mark but each one mood
Of manifold swift-fleeting fancy) is shy
And fitful--wild as the wind--dashing sunshine
With tears, and with bright hues, drawn from the two,
Spanning both sky and earth; winding his course
Waywardly; mocking his own end and main
Will, with bye-aims and off-start wilfulness.
Such, then, was Lucy's mood--as her mother hoped,
Fondly; for sagest surmise, hope or fear,
Love fools them all.
They tarried there awhile--
Long while, yet short, since winged by gamesomeness:
Until their frolic from its zesty height
Sank down, self-spent--onward was then their wish--
And peering eyes looked o'er the beetling cliff
Which way were likeliest: warily then
They tried each foothold on the nether steep,
Oft shifting th' unsafe trial--craggy heights
Have craggy falls--ambition drudges up
With yet worse danger down. So envying
The bee his humming-winged security,
As from heath-blooms his honeydew he sucked,
They stepped from mound to mound, from stone to stone,
Or where green hussocks seemed to meet their tread,
Springing from pressure--or the bushy when
Gave a hand-grasp, where else the turf, tho' soft
Yet slippery, had played traitor to the foot,
Beguiling with smooth show. Love is himself
Then most, and then his spirit most a-glow,
When he hath charge to watch o'er loveliness
And ward all harm from her. Then is he swift
As his own shafts, sportively glancing here,
And gleaming there. Then, too, most beauteous
Is woman's beauty, and her grace shown forth
Most gracefully, when like a dove she flies
To the warm bosom she hath chosen her
For trust and for home-shelter.
Laughter and screams
Confounded each with each--the sudden shriek
Belied as suddenly in mirth, and shouts
And frolic fun: as tho' the merry sprite
Had taken them for playmates of his own,
And flashed upon them on his bright-hued swift
Rainbow--such glittering gladness was shed through
Their souls. So they sped down, here scrambling, there
Sliding the easier slopes--at the hubbub wild
Hushed was the stone-chat, as by hawk o'erhead;
The lark shrank low, and trusted not the air
Frenzied so strangely. The old shepherd-dog
Astart, sprang from his lair, pricked his wild ears,
And watched with muzzle keen and keener eye,
Low growling at the throng--what may it mean--
Some fearful stir, or idle foolery,
A noise or an alarm? There stood the flock
Thick huddled, broad black heads gazing aloof--
Weighing each fit of folly and merriment--
In their sage scales of doubt.
Now, o'er the dank
Morass, they picked their path, and the steep hill
From haughtiness began to condescend
Toward the level; in like grade their course
From cripple and halt ran out into a race
Of easy smooth descent. Onward they pass'd,
Their shadows shortening now on the hill,
Then rippling on the brook; until its shoals
They forded, threading next the lovely dale.
Thence, sudden, at a turn, young Linsingen
Waving o'er head his hat--"Look, there it is;
Ten minutes more, Lucy, we're home--nay then,
Say me not, no: What wilt thou wage?--a crown?--
A kiss?--nay, but forgive me, frown not so,
But soften thy brow's sadness to a smile,
To greet--not me then--but the old Tower."
They looked
And saw the spot as their guide pointed it:
But such a spot as seemed meeter to hail,
Not with uproar and laughter, but still deep
Complacence, softly musing. A wood-ring
Rounded the hill, else bare; with straggling trees,
Stunted, the most, and dwarf, but wearing yet
A flushful cloak of fresh rich foliage,
Screening their ragged stems: with, here and there,
Some few uptowering in statelier growth
To crown the copse. A castle, trenched around,
Signalled that lovely spot in the yore days
With warlike stamp; frowning o'er the landscape fair,
Like helm on maiden's brow. But time, allied
With Nature and her elements 'gainst man,
Had bared those stone walls first to a skeleton,
And then mouldered the bones: confounding all
Its forlorn glory into one rude heap,
To witness, as a shattered trophy, his might
To men; but of those thrilling warrior days
Leaving the Painter little to record,
But all enough to the Poet, who lacks no
Monumental mass to frame his images,
But shapes dead stones to stately towers again
With Theban incantation.
A small spring
Betrayed by the green life surrounding it,
Had slaked of yore the thirst of many a knight
That held the fortress--now it nursed the copse
And brambles, that o'ergrew trenches, mounds, slopes,
And harboured the shy hare: 'mid primroses
And cowslips, blending spring and summer in one,
With the soft sweet suffusion of their hues
And their breath's melting fragrance. There they met,
Sweet trysting place: they and a fellowship
Of true like-minded friends from far and near:
Good cheer and luck and gladness to them all.

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Capel Lofft