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SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE.
And she in the midnight wood will pray | And the lady, whose voice was faint and For the weal of her lover that's far away.
She stole along, she nothing spoke, The sighs she heaved were soft and low, And naught was green upon the oak, But moss and rarest mistletoe: She kneels beneath the huge oak-tree, And in silence prayeth she.
The lady sprang up suddenly, The lovely lady, Christabel! It moaned 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 cheek, 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-veined feet unsandalled were, And wildly glittered here and there The gems entangled in her hair. I guess, 't was frightful there to see A lady so richly clad as she, Beautiful exceedingly!
"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?"
Did thus pursue her answer meet:
They choked my cries with force and fright,
And tied me on a palfrey white.
Whither they went I cannot tell-
Sounds as of a castle-bell.
Stretch forth thy hand" (thus ended she), "And help a wretched maid to flee."
Then Christabel stretched forth her
And comforted fair Geraldine:
She rose and forth with steps they
That strove to be, and were not, fast.
They crossed the moat, and Christabel Took the key that fitted well;
As still as death with stifled breath!
The moon shines dim in the open air, And not a moonbeam enters here. But they without its light can see The chamber carved so curiously, Carved with figures strange and sweet, All made out of the carver's brain, For a lady's chamber meet: The lamp with twofold silver chain Is fastened to an angel's feet. The silver lamp burns dead and dim; But Christabel the lamp will trim. She trimmed the lamp, and made it bright, And left it swinging to and fro, While Geraldine, in wretched plight, Sank down upon the floor below.
"O weary lady, Geraldine, pray you, drink this cordial wine! It is a wine of virtuous powers; My mother made it of wild flowers."
"And will your mother pity me, Who am a maiden most forlorn?" Christabel answered: "Woe is me! She died the hour that I was born. I have heard the gray-haired friar tell, How on her death-bed she did say, That she should hear the castle-bell Strike twelve upon my wedding-day. O mother dear! that thou wert here!" "I would," said Geraldine, “she were!" But soon with altered voice, said she: "Off, wandering mother! Peak and pine! I have power to bid thee flee." Alas! what ails poor Geraldine? Why stares she with unsettled eye? Can she the bodiless dead espy? And why with hollow voice cries she: "Off, woman, off! this hour is mine, Though thou her guardian spirit be, Off, woman, off! 'Tis given to me.'
Then Christabel knelt by the lady's side,
And raised to heaven her eyes so blue; "Alas!" said she, "this ghastly ride, Dear lady! it hath wildered you!" The lady wiped her moist cold brow, And faintly said, "T is over now!"
Again the wild-flower wine she drank: Her fair large eyes 'gan glitter bright,
SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE.
And from the floor whereon she sank
And thus the lofty lady spake : "All they who live in the upper sky Do love you, holy Christabel!
And you love them, and for their sake
Quoth Christabel, "So let it be!"
But through her brain, of weal and woe So many thoughts moved to and fro, That vain it were her lids to close; So half-way from the bed she rose, And on her elbow did recline To look at the Lady Geraldine.
Beneath the lamp the lady bowed, And slowly rolled her eyes around; Then drawing in her breath aloud, Like one that shuddered, she unbound The cincture from beneath her breast: Her silken robe and inner vest Dropt to her feet, and full in view, Behold! her bosom and half her side, A sight to dream of, not to tell! O, shield her! shield sweet Christabel!
Yet Geraldine nor speaks nor stirs ;
And with low voice and doleful look,
"In the touch of this bosom there worketh
a spell Which is lord of thy utterance, Christabel! Thou knowest to-night, and wilt know
This mark of my shame, this seal of my
But vainly thou warrest,
For this is alone in Thy power to declare;
That in the dim forest
A star hath set, a star hath risen, O Geraldine! since arms of thine Have been the lovely lady's prison. O Geraldine! one hour was thine, Thou 'st had thy will! By tarn and rill, The night-birds all that hour were still. But now they are jubilant anew, From cliff and tower, tu-whoo! tu-whoo! Tu-whoo! tu-whoo! from wood and fell! And see! the Lady Christabel Gathers herself from out her trance; Her limbs relax, her countenance Grows sad and soft; the smooth thin lids Close o'er her eyes; and tears shesheds, Large tears that leave the lashes bright! And oft the while she seems to smile As infants at a sudden light!
Yea, she doth smile, and she doth weep, "Sleep you, sweet lady Christabel?
Who, praying always, prays in sleep.
"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 choose 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 after t' 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 Borodale."
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.
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 look, her air, Such gentle thankfulness declare, That (so it seemed) her girded vests Grew tight beneath her heaving breasts. "Sure I have sinned!" 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 arrayed
Are pacing both into the hall,
The Baron rose, and while he prest
And gave such welcome to the same
But when he heard the lady's tale,
Alas! they had been friends in youth;
SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE.
But never either found another
Sir Leoline a moment's space
O, then the Baron forgot his age,
Were base as spotted infamy!
In the beautiful lady the child of his friend!
And now the tears were on his face,
The vision of fear, the touch and pain! She shrunk and shuddered, and saw again
(Ah, woe is me! Was it for thee,
Whereat the Knight turned wildly round,
And in its stead that vision blest,
And on her lips and o'er her eyes Spread smiles like light!
With new surprise, "What ails then my beloved child?" 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.
Go thou, with music sweet and loud,
To bear thy harp, and learn thy song,
And when he has crossed the Irthing flood,
And reaches soon that castle good Which stands and threatens Scotland's wastes.
"Bard Bracy! Bard Bracy! your horses are fleet,
Ye must ride up the hall, your music so
More loud than your horses' echoing feet!