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"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 And for the good which me befell, Even I in my degree will try, Fair maiden, to requite you well. But now unrobe yourself; for I Must pray, ere yet in bed I lie."
Quoth Christabel, "So let it be!" And as the lady bade, did she. Her gentle limbs did she undress, And lay down in her loveliness.
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 ;
"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 Thou heard'st a low moaning, And found'st a bright lady, surpassingly
And didst bring her home with thee in love and in charity,
To shield her and shelter her from the damp air."
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?
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.
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 Her maiden limbs, and having prayed That He who on the cross did groan She forthwith led fair Geraldine Might wash away her sins unknown, To meet her sire, Sir Leoline.
Are pacing both into the hall,
The Baron rose, and while he prest His gentle daughter to his breast, With cheerful wonder in his eyes, The Lady Geraldine espies, And gave such welcome to the same As might beseem so bright a dame!
But when he heard the lady's tale, And when she told her father's name, Why waxed Sir Leoline so pale, Murmuring o'er the name again, Lord Roland de Vaux of Tryermaine?
Alas! they had been friends in youth; But whispering tongues can poison truth; And constancy lives in realms above, And life is thorny, and youth is vain, And to be wroth with one we love Doth work like madness in the brain. And thus it chanced, as I divine, With Roland and Sir Leoline. Each spake words of high disdain And insult to his heart's best brother: They parted, ne'er to meet again!
SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE.
But never either found another
To free the hollow heart from paining;-
And on her lips and o'er her eyes
Sir Leoline a moment's space
O, then the Baron forgot his age,
And now the tears were on his face,
(Ah, woe is me! Was it for thee,
Whereat the Knight turned wildly round, And nothing saw but his own sweet maid, eyes upraised, as one that prayed.
Were base as spotted infamy!
Go thou, with music sweet and loud,
I may dislodge their reptile souls
In the beautiful lady the child of his friend!
The touch, the sight, had passed away,
Yet he who saw this Geraldine
Nay, by my soul!" said Leoline.
And clothe you both in solemn vest,
Knorren Moor, through Halegarth
And reaches soon that castle good
"Bard Bracy! Bard Bracy! your horses are fleet,
Ye must ride up the hall, your music so
More loud than your horses' echoing feet!
White with their panting palfreys' foam :
For since that evil hour hath flown,
The lady fell, and clasped his knees, Her face upraised, her eyes o'erflowing; And Bracy replied, with faltering voice, His gracious hail on all bestowing! "Thy words, thou sire of Christabel, Are sweeter than my harp can tell; Yet might I gain a boon of thee, This day my journey should not be, So strange a dream hath come to me, That I had vowed with music loud To clear yon wood from thing unblest, Warned by a vision in my rest! For in my sleep I saw that dove, That gentle bird, whom thou dost love, And call'st by thy own daughter's name— Sir Leoline! I saw the same Fluttering, and uttering fearful moan, Among the green herbs in the forest alone. Which when I saw and when I heard, I wondered what might ail the bird; For nothing near it could I see, Save the grass and green herbs underneath the old tree.
"And in my dream methought I went To search out what might there be found; And what the sweet bird's trouble meant, That thus lay fluttering on the ground. I went and peered, and could descry No cause for her distressful cry; But yet for her dear lady's sake I stooped, methought, the dove to take, When lo! I saw a bright green snake Coiléd around its wings and neck, Green as the herbs on which it couched. 'Close by the dove's its head it crouched; And with the dove it heaves and stirs, Swelling its neck as she swelled hers! I woke; it was the midnight hour, The clock was echoing in the tower; But though my slumber was gone by, This dream it would not pass away, It seems to live upon my eye! And thence I vowed this selfsame day, With music strong and saintly song To wander through the forest hare, Lest aught unholy loiter there.'
Thus Bracy said: the Baron the while Half-listening heard him with a smile; Then turned to Lady Geraldine, His eyes made up of wonder and love,
And said in courtly accents fine, "Sweet maid, Lord Roland's beauteous dove,
With arms more strong than harp or
Thy sire and I will crush the snake!"
A snake's small eye blinks dull and shy, And the lady's eyes they shrunk in her head,
Each shrunk up to a serpent's eye, And with somewhat of malice, and more of dread,
At Christabel she looked askance!-
The maid, alas! her thoughts are gone;
That look of dull and treacherous hate!