The Somnambulist

XLVI THE SOMNAMBULIST

List, ye who pass by Lyulph's Tower

At eve; how softly then

Doth Aira-force, that torrent hoarse,

Speak from the woody glen!

Fit music for a solemn vale!

And holier seems the ground

To him who catches on the gale

The spirit of a mournful tale,

Embodied in the sound.

Not far from that fair site whereon

The Pleasure-house is reared,

As story says, in antique days

A stern-browed house appeared;

Foil to a Jewel rich in light

There set, and guarded well;

Cage for a Bird of plumage bright,

Sweet-voiced, nor wishing for a flight

Beyond her native dell.

To win this bright Bird from her cage,

To make this Gem their own,

Came Barons bold, with store of gold,

And Knights of high renown;

But one She prized, and only one;

Sir Eglamore was he;

Full happy season, when was known,

Ye Dales and Hills! to you alone

Their mutual loyalty —

Known chiefly, Aira! to thy glen,

Thy brook, and bowers of holly;

Where Passion caught what Nature taught,

That all but love is folly;

Where Fact with Fancy stooped to play;

Doubt came not, nor regret —

To trouble hours that winged their way,

As if through an immortal day

Whose sun could never set.

But in old times Love dwelt not long

Sequestered with repose;

Best throve the fire of chaste desire,

Fanned by the breath of foes.

" A conquering lance is beauty's test,

And proves the Lover true;"

So spake Sir Eglamore, and pressed

The drooping Emma to his breast,

And looked a blind adieu.

They parted. — Well with him it fared

Through wide-spread regions errant;

A knight of proof in love's behoof,

The thirst of fame his warrant:

And She her happiness can build

On woman's quiet hours;

Though faint, compared with spear and shield,

The solace beads and masses yield,

And needlework and flowers.

Yet blest was Emma when she heard

Her Champion's praise recounted;

Though brain would swim, and eyes grow dim,

And high her blushes mounted;

Or when a bold heroic lay

She warbled from full heart;

Delightful blossoms for the May

Of absence! but they will not stay,

Born only to depart.

Hope wanes with her, while lustre fills

Whatever path he chooses;

As if his orb, that owns no curb,

Received the light hers loses.

He comes not back; an ampler space

Requires for nobler deeds;

He ranges on from place to place,

Till of his doings is no trace,

But what her fancy breeds.

His fame may spread, but in the past

Her spirit finds its centre;

Clear sight She has of what he was,

And that would now content her.

" Still is he my devoted Knight?"

The tear in answer flows;

Month falls on month with heavier weight;

Day sickens round her, and the night

Is empty of repose.

In sleep She sometimes walked abroad,

Deep sighs with quick words blending,

Like that pale Queen whose hands are seen

With fancied spots contending;

But she is innocent of blood, —

The moon is not more pure

That shines aloft, while through the wood

She thrids her way, the sounding Flood

Her melancholy lure!

While 'mid the fern-brake sleeps the doe,

And owls alone are waking,

In white arrayed, glides on the Maid

The downward pathway taking,

That leads her to the torrent's side

And to a holly bower;

By whom on this still night descried?

By whom in that lone place espied?

By thee, Sir Eglamore!

A wandering Ghost, so thinks the Knight,

His coming step has thwarted,

Beneath the boughs that heard their vows,

Within whose shade they parted.

Hush, hush, the busy Sleeper see!

Perplexed her fingers seem,

As if they from the holly tree

Green twigs would pluck, as rapidly

Flung from her to the stream.

What means the Spectre? Why intent

To violate the Tree,

Thought Eglamore, by which I swore

Unfading constancy?

Here am I, and tomorrow's sun,

To her I left, shall prove

That bliss is ne'er so surely won

As when a circuit has been run

Of valour, truth, and love.

So from the spot whereon he stood,

He moved with stealthy pace;

And, drawing nigh, with his living eye,

He recognized the face;

And whispers caught, and speeches small,

Some to the green-leaved tree,

Some muttered to the torrent-fall; —

" Roar on, and bring him with thy call;

I heard, and so may He!"

Soul-shattered was the Knight, nor knew

If Emma's Ghost it were,

Or boding Shade, or if the Maid

Her very self stood there.

He touched; what followed who shall tell?

The soft touch snapped the thread

Of slumber — shrieking back she fell,

And the Stream whirled her down the dell

Along its foaming bed.

In plunged the Knight! — when on firm ground

The rescued Maiden lay,

Her eyes grew bright with blissful light,

Confusion passed away;

She heard, ere to the throne of grace

Her faithful Spirit flew,

His voice — beheld his speaking face;

And, dying, from his own embrace,

She felt that he was true.

So was he reconciled to life:

Brief words may speak the rest;

Within the dell he built a cell,

And there was Sorrow's guest;

In hermits' weeds repose he found,

From vain temptations free;

Beside the torrent dwelling — bound

By one deep heart-controlling sound,

And awed to piety.

Wild stream of Aira, hold thy course,

Nor fear memorial lays,

Where clouds that spread in solemn shade,

Are edged with golden rays!

Dear art thou to the light of heaven,

Though minister of sorrow;

Sweet is thy voice at pensive even;

And thou, in lovers' hearts forgiven,

Shalt take thy place with Yarrow!

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