Part 5

The morning sun roused up the child,
Touching the lids of her seal'd eyes;
And she sat up, and almost smiled,
First in her innocent surprise:
So strange unto her earnest gaze,
So fresh and beautiful did seem
All nature in its morning haze;
While bright the bladed grass did gleam,
With every dewdrop like a beam
Fresh fallen from the skies.

The child has taken hastily
The pitcher in her little hand;
She wanders through that lovely land,
Herself a thing more fair to see
Than opening flower or dewy sod,
A witness of the truth of God,
Of kindly thoughts, and holy powers,
Still lingering on this earth of ours,

And telling the cold-hearted world
What love can dare and do.—
Her golden hair is all uncurl'd,
Her cheek is white, her lip is blue,
Her little feet are swollen sore,
And still she journeys as before,
Her heart is brave and true.

She pass'd the tufted birchen bower,
The elderbush all white with flower,
She pass'd the line of forest trees;—

And all at once the fearful sight,
Whereon her eye had sought to dwell,
Now in its nearness terrible,
The battle-field of deadly fight,
Trampled and strewn, she sees.

The eyes of the dead men did glare
Through the still misty morning air,
Up, with a fix'd and glassy stare,
Into the lone child's face.
She did not turn back to the wood,
Only she trembled as she stood,
Looking on them a little space.

And in her frighten'd heart she saith,
“How strange and stiff the slumberers lie:
Do warriors sleep with open eye,
That they may watch each other?
Or haply this cold trance is death,—
And yet they look not like my mother,
When she lay cold and stiff abed,
And maidens told me she was dead.”

Still on, and on, across the plain,
She hastens through the heaps of slain.
Why stays she in her ghastly walk
To trace the image half conceal'd
In blood and dust on yonder shield?
Ah! well she knows that grey goshawk,
And the soil'd plume of white and red,
Still streaming from that prostrate head.

Long time, long time the child did linger
O'er the close steel vizor barr'd,
Ere she unclasp'd with her slight finger
The iron cold and hard,
And when it yielded to the strength
Of her true purpose, and at length
Her father's face before her lay,
She shrank a little space away;
And dared not kiss his rigid brow
As she knelt by him on the sod,
And heard him mutter hoarse and low,
“Give water for the love of God.”

And still she shiver'd as she set
His dark head on her little knee,
And her hand trembled as she wet
His pale parch'd lips most tenderly.

The Baron drank an eager draught,
At the small pitcher's brim,
And the life ebbing as he quaff'd,
Lit up again his dark eye dim,
And thrill'd his pulse, and moved his limb
An earnest glance he lifted up
To her who gave that pitying cup,
And look'd on her in strange amaze,
While she, her blue eyes open'd wide,
Sat in the terror of that gaze,
And had not power to draw aside.
He murmur'd, “'Tis a vision wild,
O God, have mercy on my sin;
Proud man, bad father have I been,
She was my only child.

“I had no other thing on earth,—
I never loved her from her birth,—
And comes the false fiend to upbraid
My spirit in its dying time,
With the pale image of my crime?
It cannot be the maid.”

O, fearful sinner! God is good;
They're real lips of flesh and blood
That press thy brow, and strive to speak,
They're real tears, as warm and bright
As e'er from eyes of living light
Have fallen, when woman's heart was weak,
That drop upon thy bloodless cheek.

How could his soul so long in ire
The spell of her sweet love withstand?
Those tears to him are drops of fire,
And still he feels that light cool hand
Heaping the hot coals on his head.
“My child, I have not merited
This mercy at thine hand,” he said.
He tries to raise him from the ground,
The staunch'd blood gushes free and warm
Again from out his gaping wound,
He fainteth on her arm.

“O hasten, hasten, holy man,
The bloody wound gapes in his side,
Thine hand hath skill to staunch the tide.”
Closely did the old priest scan
The child's pale face in wonderment,
Whose little blood-stain'd hand was press'd
So closely on his dark serge vest,
And then he turn'd and with her went.

He was a man of love and prayer,
Come from his lowly chapel near,
At break of day to wander there
The voice of penitence to hear,
To shrive, to comfort, and to pray,
Ere the poor spirit pass'd away.

And when he stood with lifted rood
Beside the man of sin and blood,
And saw with sweet caresses mild,
And cooling cup, the gentle child
Over the bleeding warrior bent,
He almost deem'd her, in his need,
A ministering angel, sent
To help his holy deed.

He staunch'd the warrior's gaping wound,
He bore him from the battle ground,
He watch'd him many a weary day,
He and the child in mute distress,
And pray'd and counsell'd as he lay,
And soothed his spirit's bitterness.
O, sickness is a teacher good
Through its long hours of silent thought,
And souls that have all else withstood,
Strong pain hath tamed and taught.

And fierce remorse is hard to bear,
But holy penitence is sweet,
It beareth fruit of contrite prayer,
Of righteous deeds most meet,
In love and earnestness to tell,
Before the face of man and Heaven,
Of punishment deserved too well,
For one dear Sake forgiven.

An alter'd man the Baron rides
Back from that bloody battle field;
He loves no more the spear and shield;
An alter'd man he glides
All up the chapel chancel fair,
In other mood he kneels in prayer.

And he hath cast his pride away,
And when of late on council day
The haughty Eldred pass'd him by,
And took the highest place,
There came no anger in his eye,
No flush on his calm face.
“Good sooth, the Baron groweth meek,”
The knights said each in other's ear:
Full well Sir Otho mark'd the jeer,
And yet he did not speak.

All through his lands, the poor men bless
The lord who is so high and great,
Yet knows to pity their distress.—
There are twelve poor children motherless
Fed daily at his gate.
For woes that little children share
His heart has a peculiar care,
All other woes above.
His child no more is desolate,
She hath a father's love.

The child is in the turret tall,
But not alone as heretofore,
The warder paces on the wall,
The Moldau murmurs to the shore,
The child kneels at her father's knee;
Her eye is bright, her voice is clear,
“Good Christ, keep Thou my father dear,”
Thus ever prayeth she,
“Down on us two Thy blessing pour,
And make my heart to love him more,
Who dearly loveth me.”
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