« PreviousContinue »
To wither in the sun and breeze
Mid those decaying sanctities.
There let at least the gift be laid,
The testimony there displayed;
Bold proof that with no selfish aim,
But for lost faith and Christ's dear name,
I helmeted a brow though white,
And took a place in all men's sight;
Yea, offered up this beauteous brood,
This fair unrivalled brotherhood,
And turned away from thee, my son I
And left—but be the rest unsaid,
The name untouched, the tear unshed—
My wish is known, and I have done:
Now promise, grant this one request,
This dying prayer, and be thou blest 1'
"Then Francis answered fervently, 'If God so will, the same shall be.'
"Immediately, this solemn word Thus scarcely given, a noise was heard, And officers appeared in state To lead the prisoners to their fate. They rose, oh! wherefore should I fear To tell, or, lady, you to hear? They rose—embraces none were given— They stood like trees when earth and heaven Are calm; they knew each other's worth, And reverently the band went forth: They met, when they had reached the door, The banner which a soldier bore, One marshalled thus with base intent That he in scorn might go before, And, holding up this monument,
Conduct them to their punishment;
So cruel Sussex, unrestrained
By human feeling, had ordained.
The unhappy banner Francis saw.
And, with a look of calm command
Inspiring universal awe,
He took it from the soldier's hand;
And all the people that were round
Confirmed the deed in peace profound.
High transport did the father shed
Upon his son—and they were led,
Led on, and yielded up their breath,
Together died, a happy death!
But Francis, soon as he had braved
This insult, and the banner saved,
That moment, from among the tide
Of the spectators occupied
In admiration or dismay,
Bore unobserved his charge away."
These things, which thus had in the sight
And hearing passed of him who stood
With Emily, on the watch-tower height,
In Rylstone's woeful neighbourhood,
He told; and oftentimes with voice
Of power to comfort or rejoice;
For deepest sorrows that aspire,
Go high, no transport ever higher.
"Yet, yet in this affliction," said
The old man to the silent maid,
"Yet, lady! Heaven is good—the night
Shows yet a star which is most bright;
Your brother lives—he lives—is come
Perhaps already to his home;
Then let us leave this dreary place."
She yielded, and with gentle pace,
Though without one uplifted look,
To Rylstone Hall her way she took.
Whv comes not Francis?—Joyful cheer
In that parental gratulation,
And glow of righteous indignation,
Went with him from the doleful city:—
He fled—yet in his flight could hear
The death-sound of the minster-bell;
That sullen stroke pronounced farewell
To Marmaduke, cut ofF from pity!
To Ambrose that! and then a knell
For him, the sweet half-opened flower!
For all—all dying in one hour!
Why comes not Francis? Thoughts of love
Should bear him to his sister dear
With motion fleet as winged dove;
Yea, like a heavenly messenger,
An angel-guest, should he appear.
Why comes he not?—for westward fast
Along the plain of York he passed;
The banner-staff was in his hand,
The imagery concealed from sight.
And 'cross the expanse, in open flight,
Reckless of what impels or leads,
Unchecked he hurries on;—nor heeds
The sorrow of the villages;
Spread by triumphant cruelties
Of vengeful military force,
And punishment without remorse.
He marked not, heard not as he fled;
AH but the suffering heart was dead
For him, abandoned to blank awe,
To vacancy, and horror strong;
And the first object which he saw,
With conscious sight, as he swept along,—
It was the banner in his hand!
He felt, and made a sudden stand.
He looked about like one betrayed:
What hath he done? what promise made?
Oh, weak, weak moment I to what end
Can such a vam oblation tend,
And he the bearer?—Can he go
Carrying this instrument of woe,
And find, find anywhere, a right
To excuse him in his country's sight?
No, will not all men deem the change
A downward course, perverse and strange?
Here is it,—but how, when? must she,
The unoffending Emily,
Again this piteous object see?
Such conflict long did he maintain
Within himself, and found no rest;
Calm liberty he could not gain:
And yet the service was unblest.
His own life into danger brought
By this sad burden, even that thought,
Exciting self-suspicion strong,
Swayed the brave man to his wrong.
And how, unless it were the sense
Of all-disposing Providence,
Its will intelligibly shown,
Finds he the banner in his hand,
Without a thought to such intent,
Or conscious effort of his own;
And no obstruction to prevent
His father's wish, and last command!
And, thus beset, he heaved a sigh;
Remembering his own prophecy
Of utter desolation, made
To Emily in the yew-tree shade:
He sighed, submitting to the power,
The might of that prophetic hour.
"No choice is left, the deed is mine-
Dead are they, dead !—and I will go.
And, for their sakes, come weal or woe,
Will lay the relic on the shrine."
So forward with a steady will
He went, and traversed plain and hill;
And up the vale of Wharfe his way
Pursued ;—and, on the second day,
He reached a summit whence his eyes
Could see the tower of Bolton rise.
There Francis for a moment's space
Made halt—but hark! a noise behind
Of horsemen at an eager pace
He heard, and with misgiving mind.
Tis Sir George Bowes who leads the band:
They come, by cruel Sussex sent;
Who, when the Nortons from the hand
Of death had drunk their punishment,
Bethought him, angry and ashamed,
How Francis had the banner claimed,
And with that charge had disappeared;
By all the standers-by revered.
His whole bold carriage (which had quelled
Thus far the opposer, and repelled
All censure, enterprise so bright
That even bad men had vainly striven