Thomas Aird

The Christian Bride: Part Second

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In Morven's woody land, Roscrana kissed
Her Torthil's mother at her tale amazed;
Then lowly bowed the virgin to be blest:
“My far-come daughter!” Cathla said, and raised,
And still with wonder on the lady gazed,
“If thou indeed art Torthil's chosen bride;
Yea, well that forehead's beauty undebased
Beseems the scion of a Prince's side:
Worthy art thou to be my Torthil's spouse of pride.
“Thou from the dowried kingdoms of the East,
To lands of poor but of heroic men
Art come; yet court nor oriental feast
Will make thy sweet soul scorn our humblest den.
But when great wars befall, my daughter then
Shall bless the safety that wild Morven yields;
Then shall her sons, from mountain and from glen,
Hang round about thee with their sounding shields:
They for young Torthil's bride would fight a hundred fields.”
Forth came the day-spring: forth with Cathla walked
In sleepless love Roscrana from her door.

Before the gate a grizzly giant stalked,
A rough dog gambolled on the grassy floor.
Near stepped the former, this his play gave o'er.
“Behold thy keepers,” Cathla said, and smiled:
“Here Rumal, Torthil's hound, feared of the boar;
There silent Erc, who knows each mountain wild:
Where'er inclined to roam, they'll guard my Syrian child.
“One daughter Erc, young Oina-Morul, had,
The white-armed gladdener of his heart and eyes;
She crossed a bridging tree, the torrent mad
Devoured her beauty, stumbling from surprise.
My Torthil sees her, down the bank he flies,
Dash through the whirls he rides the roaring wave,
Green boiling gulf and dull black pool he tries;
Ah! to his sight a filmy whiteness gave
The virgin, only won to a more honoured grave.
“Erc loved my boy, he fought for him, he fell;
Healed by my care, his life from death was won
To be my dragon and to guard me well:
For you how gladly shall the same be done!
Far to the peaks of mountains does he run,
O'er lake below, o'er river, wood, and plain,
He casts his eagle eye to ken my son;
He hies to the wild margin of the main,
To look for the white ships—for Torthil back again.”
On mountain-tops when morning lights appear,
When silent dewdrops through the eve distil,
Or by the rising moon, or Hesper clear,
Or when the gusts of gloomier twilight fill
Old creaking thorn upon the stony hill,

Erc, brave and modest, was Roscrana's guide,
The shaggy Rumal was beside him still;
With them the Princess every fear defied,
As over Morven's land she loved to wander wide.
The great north-winds that on the pine-woods blow,
And heave the ocean's elemental floor,
Toss her dark locks that through them boldly go,
Sublime her spirit with their stormy roar.
Heroic land! she loved thee more and more,
Fair, but still roughening to her young surprise;
On heaths she met, and on the awful shore,
Majestic men who looked unto the skies,
For never slavery bowed their unpolluted eyes.
And Cathla told her of her father-land,
The deeds of Fingal, his illustrious race,
The songs of Ossian, the bards' priestly band,
The ghosts of heroes, and their dwelling-place:
They oft, when laid within the desert's space
Their sons have slept beneath the moon's wan beams
By the gray Stone of Power, before them trace
Events to come, vouchsafing them in dreams
Prefiguring gestures stern, soft monitory gleams.
But sad are they that want the funeral-song;
Their spirits mount not to the airy hall
Of eddying winds, for ever rolled along
By weedy lakes within their misty pall.
Of signs she told, of showers of blood that fall
To gifted eyes, the Druid's shuddering grove,
The twangs of death that in the harp-strings call,
The attendant Genii on the maids they love;
And of the Culdees told in many a rocky cove.

And much she loved to hear Roscrana tell
Of all the wonders of the early East.
But who are they that in those caverns dwell?
Each hoary Culdee is a Christian priest.
Roscrana knew them, nor the Princess ceased
Till, more than eloquent, till, saintly bold,
Of Christ, and of her love for Him increased
In this her exile—nay, her home—she told;
Till Cathla wept glad tears, won to The Living Fold.
“Awake, my Christian child!”—by this sweet name
Cathla now named her, as for Torthil's sake
She ever sleepless, when the morning came,
Longed for Roscrana—“My true daughter, wake!
Forth let us go and walk by bower and brake.
Alas! in tears those eyes of beauty swim:
Thee far from me thy nightly visions take,
Far to thy buried mother, far to him
Thy princely sire who sleeps in Tadmor's aisles so dim.
“Or when thy spirit, winged with ghostly dreams,
Flies through the pale dominions of the night,
Thou meet'st thy Torthil by the midnight gleams.
Thou wak'st, and I alone am in thy sight.
Oft wilt thou sigh when comes the morrow bright;
Long wilt thou look unto the East by day
(There were the kingdoms of thy young delight),
Weeping to feel thyself too far away,
Doomed with thy father's dust not even thy dust to lay.
“Weep not, my child! True daughter unto me!
Marvellous blessing to my end of days!
Christ send our Torthil home to us that he
May learn the truth, may learn the Eternal ways!

Then, if redeemed, shall we not be thy praise,
Immortal creature! who hast given us up
To dwell with God, His glory to upraise?
Perish the Druid's fable! the true cup
Of life alone is theirs who with the Lamb shall sup.”
And aye with Cathla forth that daughter went,
Grief-silent Erc and Rumal still behind;
Their steps they to the blameless people bent,
Dwelling upon the mountains unconfined,
With peace the broken spirit to upbind,
Want from the poor and sickness to repel.
So meek their Torthil's wife, so sweetly kind,
Gray fathers bade their daughters thus excel,
The mothers called her good, the maidens loved her well.
Too much by Swarno loved, impure of heart,
Her Torthil's foe, he tempted her with sighs;
But true her faith, and vain the chieftain's art,
He with his friend in every enterprise,
The red Gurthullin, did a plot devise:—
Near grows a struggle with the Roman foe
(Succumb shall Morven, or shall greater rise),
The battle o'er, abroad while stragglers go,
They'll watch, they'll bear her off, and none their guilt shall know.
Yea, chastely modest, boldly innocent,
Ne'er has she hinted Swarno's love impure;
Hence ne'er her friends shall guess the way she went:—
“But ha! old dragon Erc must we secure;
Chained must he be, our scheme were else unsure:
Thus be it done,—upon the battle-eve
Him to our nearest fortalice we'll lure;
Rumal his dog we'll slay, and him we'll leave
There fettered till we teach the damsel not to grieve.”

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