Saturday, August 6, 2011

"Night Scenes of Other Times" by Joanna Baillie. Gothic Poem.

http://www.english.upenn.edu/~mgamer/Etexts/baillie.poem
JOANNA BAILLIE (1762-1851)

From *Poems* (1790)

Night Scenes of other Times:  A Poem, in Three Parts

Part I.

"The wild winds bellow o'er my head, 
And spent eve's fading light;
Where shall I find some friendly shed
To screen me from the night?

"Ah! round me lies a desert vast,
No habitation near;
And dark and pathless is the waste,
And fills the mind with fear.

"Thou distant tree, whose lonely top
Has bent to many a storm,       10
No more canst thou deceive my hope,
And take my lover's form;

"For o'er thy head the dark cloud rolls,
Black as thy blasted pride.
How deep the angry tempest growls
Along the mountain's side!

"Securely rests the mountain deer
Within his hollow den,
His slumber undisturb'd by fear,
Far from the haunts of men.     20

"Beneath the fern the moorcock sleeps,
And twisted adders lie;
Back to his rock the night-bird creeps,
Nor gives his wonted cry.

"For angry spirits of the night
Ride in the troubled air,
And to their dens, in wild affright,
The beasts of prey repair.

"But oh! my love! where do'st thou rest?
What shelter covers thee?       30
O, May this cold and wint'ry blast
But only beat on me!

"Some friendly dwelling may'st thou find,
Where, undisturbed with care,
Thou shalt not feel the chilly wind
That ruffles Marg'ret's hair.

"Ah no! for thou did'st give thy word 
To meet me on the way;
Nor friendly roof, nor coastly board
Will tempt a lover's stay.      40

"O, raise thy voice, if thou art near!
Its weakest sound were bliss:
What other sound my heart can cheer
In such a gloom as this?

"But from the hills with stunning sound
The dashing torrents fall;
Loud is the raging tempest round,
And mocks a lover's call.

"Ha! see across the dreary waste
A gentle form appears!          50
It is my love, my cares are past,
How vain were all my fears?"

The form approach'd, but sad and slow,
Nor with a lover's tread;
And from his cheek the youthful glow,
And greeting smile was fled.

Dim sadness hung upon his brow;
Fix'd was his beamless eye:
His face was like the moon-light bow
Upon a wint'ry sky.             60

And fix'd and ghastly to the sight,
His strengthen'd features rose;
And bended was his graceful height,
And bloody were his clothes.

"O Marg'ret, calm thy troubled breast!
Thy sorrow now is vain:
Thy Edward from his peaceful rest
Shall ne'er return again.

"A treach'rous friend has brought me low,
And fix'd my early doom;        70
And laid my corpse, with feigned woe,
Beneath a vaulted tomb.

"To take thee to my home I sware,
And here we were to meet:
Wilt thou a narrow coffin share,
And part my winding sheet?

"But late the lord of many lands,
And now a grave is all:
My blood is warm upon his hands
Who revels in my hall.          80

"Yet think thy father's hoary hair
Is water'd with his tears;
He has but thee to soothe his care,
And prop his load of years.

"Remember Edward when he's gone,
He only liv'd for thee;
And when thou'rt pensive, and alone,
O Marg'ret call on me!

"Yet deep beneath the mould'ring clod 
I rest my wounded head;         90
And terrible that call, and loud,
Which shall awake the dead."

"No Edward, I will follow thee,
And share thy hapless doom:
Companions shall our spirits be,
Tho' distant is thy tomb.

"O! never to my father's tower
Will I return again!
A bleeding heart has little power 
To ease another's pain.         100

"Upon the wing my spirit flies,
I feel my course is run;
Nor shall these dim and weary eyes
Behold to-morrow's sun."

Like early dew, or hoary frost,
Spent with the beaming day,
So shrunk the pale and wat'ry ghost,
And dimly wore away.

No longer Marg'ret felt the storm,
She bow'd her lovely head;      110
And with her lover's fleeting storm,
Her gentle spirit fled.


Part II

"Loud roars the wind that shakes this wall;
It is no common blast:
Deep hollow sounds pass thro' my hall,
O would the night were past!

"Methinks the daemons of the air
Upon the turrets growl;
While down the empty winding stair
Their deep'ning murmurs roll.   120

"The glimm'ring fire cheers not the gloom:
How blue its weakly ray!
And like a taper in a tomb,
But spreads the more dismay.

"Athwart its melancholy light
The lengthen'd shadow falls:
My grandsires, to my troubled sight,
Low'r on me from these walls.

"Methinks yon angry warrior's head
Doth in the casement frown,     130
And darts a look, as if it said,
Where hast thou laid my son?

"But will these fancies never cease?
O, would the night were run!
My troubled soul can find no peace,
But with the morning sun.

"Vain hope! the guilty never rest;
Dismay is always near:
There is a midnight in the breast
No morn shall ever cheer.       140

"The weary hind is now at rest,
Tho lowly is his head,
How sweetly lies the guiltless breast,
Upon the hardest bed!

"The beggar, in his wretched haunt,
May now a monarch be:
Forget his woe, forget his want,
For all can sleep but me.

"I've dar'd whate'er the boldest can,
Then why this childish dread;   150
I never fear'd a living man,
And shall I fear the dead!

"No, whistling storms may shake my tower,
And passing spirits scream:
Their shadowy arms are void of power,
And but a gloomy dream.

"But lo! a form advancing slow 
Across my dusky hall!
Art thou a friend? art thou a foe?
O, answer to my call!"          160

Still, nearer to the glimm'ring light
The tow'ring figure strode,
Till full, and horrid to the sight,
The murther'd Edward stood.

His hand a broken dagger sway'd, 
Like Time's dark threat'ning dart;
And pointed to the rugged blade
That quiver'd in his heart.

The blood still trickled from his head,
And clotted was his hair,       170
That on his manly shoulders spread;
His mangled breast was bare.

His face was like the muddy sky
Before the coming snow;
And dark and dreadful was his eye,
And cloudy was his brow.

Pale Conrad shrunk, but grasp'd his sword;
Fear thrill'd in every vein;
His quiv'ring lip half-spoke its word;
He paus'd, and shrunk again.    180

"Pale bloody spectre, at this hour
Why dost thou haunt the night?
Has the deep gloomy vault no power
To keep thee from my sight?

Why do'st thou glare?  Why do'st thou wave
That fatal cursed knife?
Thee deed is done, and from the grave
Who can recall to life?

"Why rolls thine eye beneath thy brow,
Dark as the midnight storm?     190
What do'st thou want?  O, let me know!
But hide thy dreadful form.

"I'd give the life's blood from my heart
To wash my crime away:
If thou'rt spirit, O, depart!
Nor haunt a wretch of clay.

"Say, do'st thou with the blessed dwell?
Return and blessed be!
Or com'st thou from the lowest hell?
I am more curst than thee."     200

The form advanc'd with solemn step,
As though it meant to speak;
And thrice it mov'd its mutt'ring lip,
But silence did not break.

Then sternly stalk'd with heavy pace,
Which shook the trembling wall;
And, frowning, turn'd his angry face,
And vanish'd from the hall.

With fixed eyes, pale Conrad stood,
That from their sockets swell;  210
Back on his heart ran the cold blood,
He shudder'd as he fell.

Night fled, and thro' the window 'gan
The early light to play;
But on a more unhappy man
Ne'er shone the dawning day.

The gladsome sun all nature cheers,
But cannot charm his cares:
Still dwells his mind with gloomy fears,
And murther'd Edward glares.    220



Part III.

"No rest nor comfort can I find,
I watch the midnight hour;
I sit and listen to the wind
Which beats upon my tower.

"Methinks low voices from the ground
Break mournful on mine ear,
And thro' these empty chambers sound
So dismal and so drear.

"The ghost of some departed friend
Doth in my sorrows share;       230
Or is it but the rushing wind
That mocketh my despair.

"Sad thro' the hall the pale lamp gleams
Upon my father's arms:
My soul is fill'd with gloomy dreams,
I fear unknown alarms.

"Oh! I have known this lonely place
With ev'ry blessing stor'd;
And many a friend with cheerful face
Sit smiling at my board,        240

"Whilst round the fire, in early bloom,
My harmless children play'd,
Who now within the narrow tomb
Are with their mother laid.

"And now low bends my wretched head,
And those I lov'd are gone:
My friends, my family, all are fled,
And I am left alone.

"Oft' as the cheerless fire declines,
In it I sadly trace,            250
As 'lone I sit, the half form'd lines
Of many of much lov'd face.

"But chief, O Marg'ret! to my mind
Thy lovely features rise:
I strive to think thee less unkind,
And wipe my streaming eyes.

"For only thee I had to vaunt,
Thou wert thy mother's pride:
She left thee like a shooting plant
To screen my widow'd side.      260

"But thou hast left me weak, forlorn,
And chill'd with age's frost,
To count my weary days, and mourn
The comforts I have lost.

"Unkindly fair! why didst thou go?
O, had I known the truth!
Tho' Edward's father was my foe,
I would have bless'd the youth.

"O could I see that face again,
Whose smile calm'd ev'ry strife! 270
And hear that voice, which sooth'd my pain,
And made me wish for life!

"Thy harp hangs silent by the wall:
My nights are sad and long:
And thou art in a distant hall,
Where strangers raise the song.

"Ha! some delusion of the mind
My senses doth confound!
It was the harp, and not the wind,
That did so sweetly sound."     280

Old Arno rose, all wan as death,
With broken steps of care;
And oft' he check'd his quick-heav'd breath,
And turn'd his eager ear.

When like a full, but distant choir
The swelling sound return'd
And with the soft and trembling wire,
The sighing echoes mourn'd

Then softly whisper'd o'er the song
Which Marg'ret lov'd to play,   290
Like some sweet dirge, and sad, and long,
It faintly died away.

His dim-worn eyes to heav'n he cast,
Where all his griefs were known;
And smote upon his troubled breast,
And heav'd a heavy groan.

"I know it is my daughter's hand,
But 'tis no hand of clay:
And here a lonely wretch I stand,
All childless, bent, and grey.  300

"And art thou low, my lovely child?
And hast thou met thy doom?
And has thy flatt'ring morning smil'd,
To lead but to the tomb?

O let me see thee ere we part,
For souls like thine are blest;
O let me fold thee to my heart
If aught of form thou hast.

"This passing mist enrobes thy charms:
Alas, to nought 'tis shrunk!    310
And hollow strike my empty arms
Against my aged trunk.

"Thou'rt fled like the low ev'ning breath
That sighs upon the hill:
O stay! tho' in thy weeds of death,
Thou art my daughter still."

Loud wak'd the sound, then fainter grew,
And long and sadly mourn'd;
And softly sigh'd a long adieu,
And never more return'd.        320

Old Arno stretch'd him on the ground,
Thick as the gloom of night,
Death's misty shadows gather'd round,
And swam before his sight.

He heav'd a deep and deadly groan,
Which rent his lab'ring breast;
And long before the morning shone,
His spirit was at rest.

1790

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