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THE WHITE DOE OF RYLSTONE:
“Weak is the will of man, his judgment blind ;
Remembrance persecutes, and Hope betrays;
Heavy is woe ; and joy, for human kind,
A mournful thing, - so transient is the blaze !' -
Thus might he paint our lot of mortal days
Who wants the glorious faculty, assign'd
To elevate the more than reasoning mind,
And colour life's dark cloud with orient rays.
Imagination is that sacred power,
Imagination lofty and refined :
'Tis hers to pluck the amaranthine flower
Of faith, and round the sufferer's temples bind
Wreaths that endure affliction's heaviest shower,
And do not shrink from sorrow's keenest wind:
In trellis'd shed with clustering roses gay,
And Mary ! oft beside our blazing fire,
When years of wedded life were as a day
Whose current answers to the heart's desire,
Did we together read in Spenser's lay
How Una, sad of soul — in sad attire,
The gentle Una, born of heavenly birth,
To seek her Knight went wandering o'er the earth.
Ah, then, beloved ! pleasing was the smart,
And the tears precious, in compassion shed
For her, who, pierced by sorrow's thrilling dart,
Did meekly bear the pang unmerited ;
Meek as that emblem of her lowly heart
The milk-white lamb which in a line she led, -
And faithful, loyal in her innocence,
Like the brave lion slain in her defence.
Notes could we hear as of a fairy shell
Attuned to words with sacred wisdom fraught;
Free fancy prized each specious miracle,
And all its finer inspiration caught ;
Till, in the bosom of our rustic cell
We by a lamentable change were taught
That' bliss with mortal man may not abide :'-
How nearly joy and sorrow are allied !
For us the stream of fiction ceased to flow,
For us the voice of melody was mute,
— But, as soft gales dissolve the dreary snow
And give the timid herbage leave to shoot,
Heaven's breathing influence fail'd not to bestow
A timely promise of unlook'd-for fruit,
Fair fruit of pleasure and serene content
From blossoms wild of fancies innocent.
It soothed us — it beguiled us — then, to hear
Once more of troubles wrought by magic spell ;
And griefs whose aery motion comes not near
The pangs that tempt the spirit to rebel ;
Then, with mild Una in her sober cheer,
High over hill and low adown the dell
Again we wander'd, willing to partake
All that she suffer'd for her dear lord's sake.
Then, too, this song of mine once more could please,
Where anguish, strange as dreams of restless sleep,
Is temper'd and allay'd by sympathies
Aloft ascending, and descending deep,
Even to the inferior kinds; whom forest trees
Protect from beating sunbeams, and the sweep
Of the sharp winds; — fair creatures !- to whom Heaven
A calm and sinless life, with love, hath given.
This tragic story cheer'd us ; for it speaks
Of female patience winning firm repose ;
And of the recompense which conscience seeks,
a bright, encouraging example shows;
Needful when o'er wide realms the tempest breaks,
Needful amid life's ordinary woes ;-
Hence, not for them unfitted who would bless
A happy hour with holier happiness.
He serves the Muses erringly and ill,
Whose aim is pleasure light and fugitive ;
O, that my mind were able to fulfil
The comprehensive mandate which they give -
Vain aspiration of an earnest will !
Yet in this moral strain a power may live,
Beloved wife ! such solace to impart
As it hath yielded to thy tender heart.
BYDAL MOUNT, WESTMORLAND,
April 20, 1815.
FROM Bolton's old monastic tower
The bells ring loud with gladsome power;
The sun is bright ; the fields are gay
With people in their best array
Of stole and doublet, hood and scarf,
Along the banks of the crystal Wharf,
Through the vale retired and lowly,
Trooping to that summons holy.
And, up among the moorlands, see
What sprinklings of blithe company -
Of lasses and of shepherd grooms.
That down the steep hills force their way,
Like cattle through the budded brooms;
Path, or no path, what care they !
And thus in joyous mood they hie
To Bolton's mouldering Priory.
What would they there? Full fifty years
That sumptuous pile, with all its peers,
Too harshly hath been doom'd to taste
The bitterness of wrong and waste :
Its courts are ravaged; but the tower
Is standing, with a voice of power,
That ancient voice which wont to call
To mass or some high festival.
And in the shatter'd fabric's heart
Remaineth one protected part;
A rural chapel, neatly dress’d,
In covert like a little nest;
This sabbath day, for praise and prayer.
And thither young and old repair.
Fast the churchyard fills ; anon Look again, and they all are gone : The cluster round the porch, and the folk Who sate in the shade of the Prior's Oak! And scarcely have they disappear'd Ere the prelusive hymn is heard : With one consent the people rejoice, Filling the church with a lofty voice ! They sing a service which they feel : For 'tis the sunrise now of zeal, And faith and hope are in their prime, In great Eliza's golden time.
A moment ends the fervent din, And all is hush'd, without and within ; For, though the priest more tranquilly Recites the holy liturgy, The only voice which you can hear Is the river murmuring near. When soft ! the dusky trees between, And down the path through the open green, Where is no living thing to be seen, And through yon gateway, where is found, Beneath the arch with ivy bound. Free entrance to the churchyard ground,