Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
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Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
 
Alnwick Castle
By Fitz-Greene Halleck (1790–1867)
 
HOME of the Percys’ high-born race,
  Home of their beautiful and brave,
Alike their birth and burial place,
  Their cradle, and their grave!
Still sternly o’er the Castle gate        5
Their house’s Lion stands in state,
  As in his proud departed hours;
And warriors frown in stone on high,
And feudal banners “flout the sky”
  Above his princely towers.        10
A gentle hill its side inclines,
  Lovely in England’s fadeless green,
To meet the quiet stream which winds
  Through this romantic scene
As silently and sweetly still,        15
  As when, at evening, on that hill,
  While summer’s wind blew soft and low,
Seated by gallant Hotspur’s side,
His Katharine was a happy bride,
  A thousand years ago.        20
Gaze on the Abbey’s ruin’d pile:
  Does not the succoring Ivy, keeping
Her watch around it, seem to smile,
  As o’er a loved one sleeping?
One solitary turret gray        25
  Still tells, in melancholy glory,
The legend of the Cheviot day,
  The Percys’ proudest border story.
That day its roof was triumph’s arch;
  Then rang, from aisle to pictured dome,        30
The light step of the soldier’s march,
  The music of the trump and drum;
And babe and sire, the old, the young,
And the monk’s hymn, and minstrel’s song,
And woman’s pure kiss, sweet and long,        35
  Welcomed her warrior home.
Wild roses by the Abbey towers
  Are gay in their young bud and bloom:
They were born of a race of funeral flowers
That garlanded, in long-gone hours,        40
  A Templar’s knightly tomb.
He died, the sword in his mailed hand,
On the holiest spot of the Blessed Land,
  Where the Cross was damp’d with his dying breath:
When blood ran free as festal wine,        45
And the sainted air of Palestine
  Was thick with the darts of death.
Wise with the lore of centuries,
What tales, if there be “tongues in trees,”
  Those giant oaks could tell,        50
Of beings born and buried here;
Tales of the peasant and the peer,
Tales of the bridal and the bier,
  The welcome and farewell,
Since on their boughs the startled bird        55
First, in her twilight slumbers, heard
  The Norman’s curfew bell.
I wandered through the lofty halls
  Trod by the Percys of old fame,
And traced upon the chapel walls        60
  Each high, heroic name,
From him who once his standard set
Where now, o’er mosque and minaret,
  Glitter the Sultan’s crescent moons;
To him who, when a younger son,        65
Fought for King George at Lexington,
  A Major of Dragoons.
*      *      *      *
That last half stanza—it has dashed
  From my warm lip the sparkling cup;
The light that o’er my eye-beam flash’d,        70
  The power that bore my spirit up
Above this bank-note world—is gone;
And Alnwick’s but a market town,
And this, alas! its market day,
And beasts and borderers throng the way;        75
Oxen, and bleating lambs in lots,
Northumbrian boors, and plaided Scots;
  Men in the coal and cattle line,
From Teviot’s bard and hero land,
From royal Berwick’s beach of sand,        80
From Wooller, Morpeth, Hexham, and
  Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
These are not the romantic times
So beautiful in Spenser’s rhymes,
  So dazzling to the dreaming boy:        85
Ours are the days of fact, not fable;
Of Knights, but not of the Round Table;
  Of Bailie Jarvie, not Rob Roy:
’T is what “our President,” Monroe,
  Has call’d “the era of good feeling:”        90
The Highlander, the bitterest foe
To modern laws, has felt their blow,
Consented to be tax’d, and vote,
And put on pantaloons and coat,
  And leave off cattle stealing;        95
Lord Stafford mines for coal and salt,
The duke of Norfolk deals in malt,
  The Douglas in red herrings;
And noble name, and cultured land,
Palace, and park, and vassal band        100
Are powerless to the notes of hand
  Of Rothschild, or the Barings.
The age of bargaining, said Burke,
  Has come: today the turban’d Turk,
(Sleep, Richard, of the lion heart!        105
Sleep on, nor from your cerements start,)
  Is England’s friend and fast ally;
The Moslem tramples on the Greek,
  And on the Cross and altar stone,
  And Christendom looks tamely on,        110
And hears the Christian maiden shriek,
  And sees the Christian father die;
And not a sabre blow is given
For Greece and fame, for faith and heaven,
  By Europe’s craven chivalry.        115
You ’ll ask if yet the Percy lives
  In the armed pomp of feudal state?
The present representatives
  Of Hotspur and his “gentle Kate,”
Are some half dozen serving men,        120
In the drab coat of William Penn;
  A chambermaid, whose lip and eye,
And cheek, and brown hair, bright and curling,
  Spoke Nature’s aristocracy;
And one, half groom half Seneschal,        125
Who bow’d me through court, bower, and hall,
From donjon keep to turret wall,
For ten-and-sixpence sterling.
 
 
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