Isabelle

Can there be a moon in heaven to-night,
That the hill and the grey cloud seem so light?
The air is whiten'd by some spell,
For there is no moon, I know it well;
On this third day, the sages say,
('Tis wonderful how well they know,)
The moon is journeying far away,
Bright somewhere in a heaven below.

It is a strange and lovely night,
A greyish pale, but not white!
Is it rain, or is it dew,
That falls so thick I see its hue?
In rays it follows, one, two, three,
Down the air so merrily,
Said Isabelle, so let it be!

Why does the Lady Isabelle
Sit in the damp and dewy dell
Counting the racks of drizzly rain,
And how often the Rail cries over again?
For she's harping, harping in the brake,
Craik, craik—Craik, craik.
Ten times nine, and thrice eleven;—
That last call was an hundred and seven.
Craik, craik—the hour is near—
Let it come, I have no fear!
Yet it is a dreadful work, I wis,
Such doings in a night like this!

Sounds the river harsh and loud?
The stream sounds harsh, but not loud.
There is a cloud that seems to hover,
By western hill the church-yard over,
What is it like?—'Tis like a whale;
'Tis like a shark with half the tail,
Not half, but third and more;
Now 'tis a wolf, and now a boar;
Its face is raised—it cometh here;
Let it come—there is no fear.
There's two for heaven, and ten for hell,
Let it come—'tis well—'tis well!
Said the Lady Isabelle.

What ails that little cut-tail'd whelp,
That it continues to yelp, yelp?
Yelp, yelp, and it turns its eye
Up to the tree and half to the sky,
Half to the sky and full to the cloud,
And still it whines and barks aloud.
Why I should dread I cannot tell;
There is a spirit; I know it well!
I see it in yon falling beam—
Is it a vision, or a dream?
It is no dream, full well I know,
I have a woful deed to do!
Hush, hush, thou little murmurer;
I tell thee hush—the dead are near!

If thou knew'st all, poor tailless whelp,
Well might'st thou tremble, growl, and yelp;
But thou know'st nothing, hast no part,
(Simple and stupid as thou art)
Save gratitude and truth of heart.
But they are coming by this way
That have been dead for a year and a day;
Without challenge, without change,
They shall have their full revenge!
They have been sent to wander in woe
In the lands of flame, and the lands of snow;
But those that are dead
Shall the green sward tread,
And those that are living
Shall soon be dead!
None to pity them, none to help!
Thou may'st quake, my cut-tail'd whelp!

There are two from the grave
That I fain would save;
Full hard is the weird
For the young and the brave!
Perchance they are rapt in vision sweet,
While the passing breezes kiss their feet;
And they are dreaming of joy and love!—
Well, let them go—there's room above.

There are three times three, and three to these,
Count as you will, by twos or threes!
Three for the gallows, and three for the wave,
Three to roast behind the stone,
And three that shall never see the grave
Until the day and the hour are gone!
For retribution is mine alone!
The cloud is redder in its hue,
The hour is near, and vengeance due;
It cannot, and it will not fail,—
'Tis but a step to Borrowdale!
Why shouldst thou love and follow me,
Poor faithful thing? I pity thee!

Up rose the Lady Isabelle,
I may not of her motion tell,
Yet thou may'st look upon her frame;
Look on it with a passing eye,
But think not thou upon the same,
Turn away, and ask not why;
For if thou darest look again,
Mad of heart and seared of brain,
Thou shalt never look again!

What can ail that short-tail'd whelp?
'Tis either behind or far before,
And it hath changed its whining yelp
To a shorten'd yuff—its little core
Seems bursting with terror and dismay,
Yuff, yuff,—hear how it speeds away.
Hold thy peace, thou yemering thing,
The very night-wind's slumbering,
And thou wilt wake to woe and pain
Those that must never wake again.

Meet is its terror and its flight,
There's one on the left and two on the right!
But save the paleness of the face,
All is beauty, and all is grace!
The earth and air are tinged with blue;
There are no footsteps in the dew;
Is this to wandering spirits given,
Such stillness on the face of heaven?
The fleecy clouds that sleep above,
Are like the wing of beauteous dove,
And the leaf of the elm-tree does not move!
Yet they are coming! and they are three!
Jesu! Maria! can it be?

The Conclusion

Sleep on, fair maiden of Borrowdale!
Sleep! O sleep! and do not wake!
Dream of the dance, till the foot so pale,
And the beauteous ancle shiver and shake;
Till thou shalt press, with feeling bland,
Thine own fair breast for lover's hand.
Thy heart is light as summer breeze,
Thy heart is joyous as the day;
Man never form of angel sees,
But thou art fair as they!
So lovers ween, and so they say,
So thine shall ween for many a day!
The hour's at hand, O woe is me!
For they are coming, and they are three!
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