Thomas Aird

The Phrophecy

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Winds roar: the ragged clouds are torn:
Glimmers the gibbous moon forlorn:
Creak! creak! the irons groan:
Look not up, hurry on!
Dare you look? The Woman see,
Low sitting by the baleful Tree—
Tree, with its fruit of death abhorred,
Not of the Gardens of the Lord!


One short year of wedded gladness,
And Grizzel sits in widowed sadness;
Lonely, and poor, and thoughtful she,
Nursing her boy upon her knee.
Late in the night, slow, without din,
A stranger Hunchback Dwarf came in,
Bareheaded, bearded, evil-faced,
A leathern girdle round his waist,
A tall staff in his bony hand,
Nodding as from some weary land.
On startled Grizzel's arm he laid
His grasp; imperfect sounds he made,
And signs whereby he signified
That there all night he would abide.
It could not be: In every feature
How swelled the dumb malignant creature,
To be refused! With sudden check,
Calm pointing to her infant's neck,
As sleeping in her lap it lay,
He shook his head and passed away.
Next morn, in chalk upon her door,
The Gallows-Tree her baby bore,
With words to make the meaning clear
Of that prophetic picture drear.
Poor Grizzel saw it, shrunk, and pressed
Her infant to her boding breast.


Hopeless waiting, listless wo,
Did mortal man the Future know!
What wouldn't that Mother give to be
Purged of the clinging Prophecy!
It works by night, it works by day,
To take her peace of mind away.
How o'er her boy she bends to trace
The changes of his sleeping face!
If motions from within torment
The features, how her soul is rent;
The infant passions these may be,
Pledge of that rising Gallows-Tree!
But dimpling, smiling, now he lightens;
Oh how her hopeful spirit brightens!
Down, down upon his neck she presses,
With many a tear, her vehement kisses.


In restless hope, in watchful fear,
By urgent love, by awe severe,
From threatened ill her son to save,
No genial freedom Grizzel gave.
A guardianship so jealous bent,
He felt to be a punishment:
Recoiling from the irksome sway,
He learned to scorn and disobey:
And thus from out the froward child
Upgrew the youth with passions wild.
Oh that gloomy moorland wood!
Oh that midnight deed of blood!
He killed and buried there a maid
Whom he had first to shame betrayed.
Vengeance sped. His bones of guilt,
Near where the innocent blood he spilt,
Swinging in chains rot on their pole:
Christ have mercy on his soul!
Thus worked that Prophecy of ill
Itself in sin and sorrow to fulfil.


Childless Grizzel, backward turning,
O'er all the past her spirit yearning,
O'er what she did, what left undone,
To check, to guide, to save her son;
In process still to calculate
How to have stayed his evil fate,
(Oh weary process, night and day!)
Her wildered brain at last gives way.

The houseless moor, there now is she,
A dweller with her son to be.
Lean snuffing dogs she scares away,
And from his eyes the birds of prey.
With flowerets from the summer lea
She garlands all his ghastly Tree.
And aye she brings a ladder there,
And climbs the Tree, and combs his hair.
She sits below: full on her go
Cutting scuds and whirls of snow;
Morsels of ice, spit from the sky,
In her gray locks unmelted lie;
Swung in the elemental battles,
The Skeleton above her rattles;
Yet there the Word of God she'll read,
So may her son still hear and heed!
And morn and eve, in storm or calm,
She sings for him a holy psalm.


In her eyes a ghostly shimmer,
By the wan moon's uncertain glimmer,
With her last dregs of light forlorn
Still sicklier in the gray of morn,
From out the storms of midnight see
The Woman of the rueful Tree!
To the Tree she bows her head,
Now she's dying—now she's dead.
But lo! her hand is on The Book,
And saintly is dead Grizzel's look.

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Thomas Aird