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POEMS

COMPOSED OR SUGGESTED DURING A TOUR IN THE SUMMER OF 1833

XLVI. THE SOMNAMBULIST

          LIST, ye who pass by Lyulph's Tower
            At eve; how softly then
          Doth Aira-force, that torrent hoarse,
            Speak from the woody glen!
          Fit music for a solemn vale!
            And holier seems the ground
          To him who catches on the gale
          The spirit of a mournful tale,
            Embodied in the sound.

          Not far from that fair site whereon                         10
            The Pleasure-house is reared,
          As story says, in antique days
            A stern-browed house appeared;
          Foil to a Jewel rich in light
            There set, and guarded well;
          Cage for a Bird of plumage bright,
          Sweet-voiced, nor wishing for a flight
            Beyond her native dell.

          To win this bright Bird from her cage,
            To make this Gem their own,                               20
          Came Barons bold, with store of gold,
            And Knights of high renown;
          But one She prized, and only one;
            Sir Eglamore was he;
          Full happy season, when was known,
          Ye Dales and Hills! to yon alone
            Their mutual loyalty--

          Known chiefly, Aira! to thy glen,
            Thy brook, and bowers of holly;
          Where Passion caught what Nature taught,                    30
            That all but love is folly;
          Where Fact with Fancy stooped to play;
            Doubt came not, nor regret--
          To trouble hours that winged their way,
          As if through an immortal day
            Whose sun could never set.

          But in old times Love dwelt not long
            Sequestered with repose;
          Best throve the fire of chaste desire,
            Fanned by the breath of foes.                             40
          "A conquering lance is beauty's test,
            "And proves the Lover true;"
          So spake Sir Eglamore, and pressed
          The drooping Emma to his breast,
            And looked a blind adieu.

          They parted.--Well with him it fared
            Through wide-spread regions errant;
          A knight of proof in love's behoof,
            The thirst of fame his warrant:
          And She her happiness can build                             50
            On woman's quiet hours;
          Though faint, compared with spear and shield,
          The solace beads and masses yield,
            And needlework and flowers.

          Yet blest was Emma when she heard
            Her Champion's praise recounted;
          Though brain would swim, and eyes grow dim,
            And high her blushes mounted;
          Or when a bold heroic lay
            She warbled from full heart;                              60
          Delightful blossoms for the 'May'
          Of absence! but they will not stay,
            Born only to depart.

          Hope wanes with her, while lustre fills
            Whatever path he chooses;
          As if his orb, that owns no curb,
            Received the light hers loses.
          He comes not back; an ampler space
            Requires for nobler deeds;
          He ranges on from place to place,                           70
          Till of his doings is no trace,
            But what her fancy breeds.

          His fame may spread, but in the past
            Her spirit finds its centre;
          Clear sight She has of what he was,
            And that would now content her.
          "Still is he my devoted Knight?"
            The tear in answer flows;
          Month falls on month with heavier weight;
          Day sickens round her, and the night                        80
            Is empty of repose.

          In sleep She sometimes walked abroad,
            Deep sighs with quick words blending,
          Like that pale Queen whose hands are seen
            With fancied spots contending;
          But 'she' is innocent of blood,--
            The moon is not more pure
          That shines aloft, while through the wood
          She thrids her way, the sounding Flood
            Her melancholy lure!                                      90

          While 'mid the fern-brake sleeps the doe,
            And owls alone are waking,
          In white arrayed, glides on the Maid
            The downward pathway taking,
          That leads her to the torrent's side
            And to a holly bower;
          By whom on this still night descried?
          By whom in that lone place espied?
            By thee, Sir Eglamore!

          A wandering Ghost, so thinks the Knight,                   100
            His coming step has thwarted,
          Beneath the boughs that heard their vows,
            Within whose shade they parted.
          Hush, hush, the busy Sleeper see!
            Perplexed her fingers seem,
          As if they from the holly tree
          Green twigs would pluck, as rapidly
            Flung from her to the stream.

          What means the Spectre? Why intent
            To violate the Tree,                                     110
          Thought Eglamore, by which I swore,
            Unfading constancy?
          Here am I, and to-morrow's sun,
            To her I left, shall prove
          That bliss is ne'er so surely won
          As when a circuit has been run
            Of valour, truth, and love.

          So from the spot whereon he stood,
            He moved with stealthy pace;
          And, drawing nigh, with his living eye,                    120
            He recognised the face;
          And whispers caught, and speeches small,
            Some to the green-leaved tree,
          Some muttered to the torrent-fall;--
          "Roar on, and bring him with thy call;
            "I heard, and so may He!"

          Soul-shattered was the Knight, nor knew
            If Emma's Ghost it were,
          Or boding Shade, or if the Maid
            Her very self stood there.                               130
          He touched; what followed who shall tell?
            The soft touch snapped the thread
          Of slumber--shrieking back she fell,
          And the Stream whirled her down the dell
            Along its foaming bed.

          In plunged the Knight!--when on firm ground
            The rescued Maiden lay,
          Her eyes grew bright with blissful light,
            Confusion passed away;
          She heard, ere to the throne of grace                      140
            Her faithful Spirit flew,
          His voice--beheld his speaking face;
          And, dying, from his own embrace,
            She felt that he was true.

          So was he reconciled to life:
            Brief words may speak the rest;
          Within the dell he built a cell,
            And there was Sorrow's guest;
          In hermits' weeds repose he found,
            From vain temptations free;                              150
          Beside the torrent dwelling--bound
          By one deep heart-controlling sound,
            And awed to piety.

          Wild stream of Aira, hold thy course,
            Nor fear memorial lays,
          Where clouds that spread in solemn shade,
            Are edged with golden rays!
          Dear art thou to the light of heaven,
            Though minister of sorrow;
          Sweet is thy voice at pensive even;                        160
          And thou, in lovers' hearts forgiven,
            Shalt take thy place with Yarrow!


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