William Wordsworth

The White Doe Of Rylstone 4

Canto Fourth

'Tis night: in silence looking down, The Moon, from cloudless ether, sees A Camp, and a beleaguered Town, And Castle, like a stately crown On the steep rocks of winding Tees;-- And southward far, with moor between, Hill-top, and flood, and forest green, The bright Moon sees that valley small Where Rylstone's old sequestered Hall A venerable image yields Of quiet to the neighbouring fields; While from one pillared chimney breathes The smoke, and mounts in silver wreaths. --The courts are hushed;--for timely sleep The greyhounds to their kennel creep; The peacock in the broad ash tree Aloft is roosted for the night, He who in proud prosperity Of colours manifold and bright Walked round, affronting the daylight; And higher still, above the bower Where he is perched, from yon lone Tower The hall-clock in the clear moonshine With glittering finger points at nine. Ah! who could think that sadness here Hath any sway? or pain, or fear? A soft and lulling sound is heard Of streams inaudible by day; The garden pool's dark surface, stirred By the night insects in their play, Breaks into dimples small and bright; A thousand, thousand rings of light That shape themselves and disappear Almost as soon as seen:--and lo! Not distant far, the milk-white Doe-- The same who quietly was feeding On the green herb, and nothing heeding, When Francis, uttering to the Maid His last words in the yew-tree shade, Involved whate'er by love was brought Out of his heart, or crossed his thought, Or chance presented to his eye, In one sad sweep of destiny-- The same fair Creature, who hath found Her way into forbidden ground; Where now--within this spacious plot For pleasure made, a goodly spot, With lawns and beds of flowers, and shades Of trellis-work in long arcades, And cirque and crescent framed by wall Of close-clipt foliage green and tall, Converging walks, and fountains gay, And terraces in trim array-- Beneath yon cypress spiring high, With pine and cedar spreading wide Their darksome boughs on either side, In open moonlight doth she lie; Happy as others of her kind, That, far from human neighbourhood, Range unrestricted as the wind, Through park, or chase, or savage wood. But see the consecrated Maid Emerging from a cedar shade To open moonshine, where the Doe Beneath the cypress-spire is laid; Like a patch of April snow-- Upon a bed of herbage green, Lingering in a woody glade Or behind a rocky screen-- Lonely relic! which, if seen By the shepherd, is passed by With an inattentive eye. Nor more regard doth She bestow Upon the uncomplaining Doe Now couched at ease, though oft this day Not unperplexed nor free from pain, When she had tried, and tried in vain, Approaching in her gentle way, To win some look of love, or gain Encouragement to sport or play Attempts which still the heart-sick Maid Rejected, or with slight repaid. Yet Emily is soothed;--the breeze Came fraught with kindly sympathies. As she approached yon rustic Shed Hung with late-flowering woodbine, spread Along the walls and overhead, The fragrance of the breathing flowers Revived a memory of those hours When here, in this remote alcove, (While from the pendent woodbine came Like odours, sweet as if the same) A fondly-anxious Mother strove To teach her salutary fears And mysteries above her years. Yes, she is soothed: an Image faint, And yet not faint--a presence bright Returns to her--that blessed Saint Who with mild looks and language mild Instructed here her darling Child, While yet a prattler on the knee, To worship in simplicity The invisible God, and take for guide The faith reformed and purified. 'Tis flown--the Vision, and the sense Of that beguiling influence, "But oh! thou Angel from above, Mute Spirit of maternal love, That stood'st before my eyes, more clear Than ghosts are fabled to appear Sent upon embassies of fear; As thou thy presence hast to me Vouchsafed, in radiant ministry Descend on Francis; nor forbear To greet him with a voice, and say;-- 'If hope be a rejected stay, 'Do thou, my christian Son, beware 'Of that most lamentable snare, 'The self-reliance of despair!'" Then from within the embowered retreat Where she had found a grateful seat Perturbed she issues. She will go! Herself will follow to the war, And clasp her Father's knees;--ah, no! She meets the insuperable bar, The injunction by her Brother laid; His parting charge--but ill obeyed-- That interdicted all debate, All prayer for this cause or for that; All efforts that would turn aside The headstrong current of their fate: 'Her duty is to stand and wait;' In resignation to abide The shock, AND FINALLY SECURE O'ER PAIN AND GRIEF A TRIUMPH PURE. --She feels it, and her pangs are checked. But now, as silently she paced The turf, and thought by thought was chased, Came One who, with sedate respect, Approached, and, greeting her, thus spake; "An old man's privilege I take: Dark is the time--a woeful day! Dear daughter of affliction, say How can I serve you? point the way." "Rights have you, and may well be bold; You with my Father have grown old In friendship--strive--for his sake go-- Turn from us all the coming woe: This would I beg; but on my mind A passive stillness is enjoined. On you, if room for mortal aid Be left, is no restriction laid; You not forbidden to recline With hope upon the Will divine." "Hope," said the old Man, "must abide With all of us, whate'er betide. In Craven's Wilds is many a den, To shelter persecuted men: Far under ground is many a cave, Where they might lie as in the grave, Until this storm hath ceased to rave: Or let them cross the River Tweed, And be at once from peril freed!" "Ah tempt me not!" she faintly sighed; "I will not counsel nor exhort, With my condition satisfied; But you, at least, may make report Of what befalls;--be this your task-- This may be done;--'tis all I ask!" She spake--and from the Lady's sight The Sire, unconscious of his age, Departed promptly as a Page Bound on some errand of delight. --The noble Francis--wise as brave, Thought he, may want not skill to save. With hopes in tenderness concealed, Unarmed he followed to the field; Him will I seek: the insurgent Powers Are now besieging Barnard's Towers,-- "Grant that the Moon which shines this night May guide them in a prudent flight!" But quick the turns of chance and change, And knowledge has a narrow range; Whence idle fears, and needless pain, And wishes blind, and efforts vain.-- The Moon may shine, but cannot be Their guide in flight--already she Hath witnessed their captivity. She saw the desperate assault Upon that hostile castle made;-- But dark and dismal is the vault Where Norton and his sons are laid! Disastrous issue!--he had said "This night yon faithless Towers must yield, Or we for ever quit the field. --Neville is utterly dismayed, For promise fails of Howard's aid; And Dacre to our call replies That 'he' is unprepared to rise. My heart is sick;--this weary pause Must needs be fatal to our cause. The breach is open--on the wall, This night, the Banner shall be planted!" --'Twas done: his Sons were with him--all; They belt him round with hearts undaunted And others follow;--Sire and Son Leap down into the court;--"'Tis won"-- They shout aloud--but Heaven decreed That with their joyful shout should close The triumph of a desperate deed Which struck with terror friends and foes! The friend shrinks back--the foe recoils From Norton and his filial band; But they, now caught within the toils, Against a thousand cannot stand;-- The foe from numbers courage drew, And overpowered that gallant few. "A rescue for the Standard!" cried The Father from within the walls; But, see, the sacred Standard falls!-- Confusion through the Camp spread wide: Some fled; and some their fears detained: But ere the Moon had sunk to rest In her pale chambers of the west, Of that rash levy nought remained.

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