The Beggars Castle

Those ruins took my thoughts away
To a far eastern land;
Like camels, in a herd they lay
Upon the dull red sand;
I know not that I ever sate
Within a place so desolate.

Unlike the relics that convert
Our hearts with antient Time,
All moss--besprent and ivy--deckt,
Gracing a lenient clime,
Here all was death and nothing born,--
No life but the unfriendly thorn.

``My little guide, whose sunny eyes
And darkly--lucid skin,
Witness, in spite of shrouded skies,
Where southern realms begin;
Come, tell me all you've heard and know
About these mighty things laid low.''

The Beggar's Castle, wayward name,
Was all these fragments bore,
And wherefore legendary fame
Baptized them thus of yore,
He told in words so sweet and true,
I wish that he could tell it you.

A puissant Seigneur, who in wars
And tournays had renown,
With wealth from prudent ancestors
Sloping unbroken down,
Dwelt in these towers, and held in fee
All the broad lands that eye can see.

He never tempered to the poor
Misfortune's bitter blast,
And when before his haughty door
Widow and orphan past,
Injurious words, and dogs at bay,
Were all the welcome that had they.

The Monk who toiled from place to place,
That God might have his dole,
Was met by scorn and foul grimace,
And oaths that pierced his soul;
'Twas well for him to flee and pray,
``They know not what they do and say.''

One evening, when both plain and wood
Were trackless in the snow,
A Beggar at the portal stood,
Who little seemed to know
That Castle and its evil fame,
As if from distant shores he came.

Like channelled granite was his front,
His hair was crisp with rime,--
He askt admittance, as was wont
In that free--hearted time;
For who would leave to die i' the cold
A lonely man and awful--old.

At first his prayer had no reply,--
Perchance the wild wind checkt it,
But when it rose into a cry,
No more the inmates reckt it,
Till where the cheerful fire--light shone,
A voice out--thundered,--``Wretch! begone.''

``There is no path,--I have no strength,--
What can I do alone?
Grant shelter, or I lay my length,
And perish on the stone;
I crave not much,--I should be blest
In kennel or in barn to rest.''

``What matters thy vile head to me?
Dare not to touch the door!''
``Alas! and shall I never see
Home, wife, and children more?''--
``If thou art still importunate,
My serfs shall nail thee to the gate.''

But, when the wrathful Seigneur faced
The object of his ire,
The beggar raised his brow debased
And armed his eyes with fire:
``Whatever guise is on me now,
I am a mightier Lord than thou!''

``Madman or cheat! announce thy birth.''--
``That thou wilt know to--morrow.''
``Where are thy fiefs?''--``The whole wide Earth.''
``And what thy title?''--``Sorrow.''
Then ope'ning wide his ragged vest,
He cried,--``Thou canst not shun thy guest.''

He stampt his foot with fearful din,--
With imprecating hand
He struck the door, and past within
Right through the menial band:
``Follow him, seize him,--There--and there!''
They only saw the blank night air.

But He was at his work: ere day
Began the work of doom,
The Lord's one daughter, one bright may,
Fled with a base--born groom,
Bearing about, where'er she came,
The blighting of an antient name.

His single son, that second self,
Who, when his first should fall,
Would hold his lands and hoarded pelf,
Died in a drunken brawl;--
And now alone amidst his gold
He stood, and felt his heart was cold.

Till, like a large and patient sea
Once roused by cruel weather,
Came by the raging Jacquerie,
And swept away together
Him and all his, save that which time
Has hoarded to suggest our rhyme.

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