Were they shepherds, who sat all day
On that brown mountain's side?
But neither staff nor dog had they,
Nor woolly flock to guide.
They were clothed in savage attire;
Their locks were dark and long;
And at each belt a weapon dire,
Like bandit-knife was hung.
One was a woman tall and fair;
A princess she might be
From her stately form and her features rare,
And her look of Majesty.
But, oh! she had a sullen frown,
A lip of cruel scorn;
As sweet tears never melted down
Her cheeks since she was born.
'Twas well she had no sceptre to wield,
No subject land to sway;
Fear might have made her vassals yield,
But love had been far away.
Yet love was ever at her feet
In his most burning mood;
That love, which will the wicked greet
As kindly as the good.
And he was noble too, who bowed
So humbly by her side;
Entreating, till his eyes o'erflowed,
Her spirits icy proud.
'Angelica, from my very birth
I have been nursed in strife;
And lived upon this weary Earth
A wanderer, all my life.
'The baited tiger could not be
So much athirst for gore,
For men and laws have tortured me,
Till I can bear no more.
'The guiltless blood upon my hands
Will shut me out from heaven,
And here, and even in foreign lands,
I cannot find a haven.
'And in all space and in all clime,
And through eternity,
To aid a spirit lost in crime,
I have no hope but thee.
'Yet I will swear, no saint on high
A truer faith could prove;
No angel from that holy sky
Could give thee purer love.
'For thee thro' never-ending years
I'd suffer endless pain;
But only give me back my tears,
Return my love again!'
Many a time, unheeded, thus
The reckless man would pray;
But something woke an answering flush
On his lady's brow to-day;
And her eye flashed flame, as she turned to speak
In concord with her reddening cheek.
'I've known a hundred kinds of love;
All made the loved one rue;
And what is thine that it should prove
Than other love, more true?
'Listen! I've known a burning heart,
To which my own was given;
Nay, not with passion, do not start,
Our love was love from heaven:
At least if heavenly love be born
In the pure light of childhood's morn,
Long ere the poison-tainted air
From this world's plague—few rises there;
That heart was a tropic sun,
That kindles all it shines upon;
And never Fejian devotee
Gave worship half so warm as I;
And never radiant bow could be
So welcome in a stormy sky.
'My soul dwelt with me day and night,
She was my all-sufficient light;
My childhood's mate, my girlhood's guide,
My only blessing, only Pride.
'But cursèd be the very earth
That gave that friend her fatal birth!
With her own hand she bent the bow,
That laid my best affections low,
Then mocked my grief and scorned my prayers,
And drowned my bloom of youth in tears.
Warnings, reproaches, both were vain;
What recked she of another's pain?
My dearer self she would not spare;
From Honour's voice she turned his ear;
First made her love his only stay,
And then snatched the treacherous prop away.
'Douglas, he pleaded bitterly,
He pleaded, as you plead to me,
For lifelong chains, or timeless tomb,
Or any, but an exile's doom.
We both were scorned, both sternly driven
To shelter 'neath a foreign heaven;
And darkens o'er that dreary time
A wildering dream of frenzied crime.
'I would not now those days recall;
The oath within that caverned hall,
And its fulfilment; these you know,
We both together struck the blow;
But you can never know the pain
That my lost heart did then sustain,
When, severed wide by guiltless gore,
I felt that one could live no more!
Back maddening thought! the grave is deep
Where my Amedeus lies asleep,
And I have long forgot to weep.
'Now hear me; in these regions wild
I saw to-day my enemy.
Unarmed, as helpless as a child,
She slumbered on a sunny lea;
Two friends; no other guard had she;
And they were wandering on the braes;
And chasing, in regardless glee,
The wild goat o'er his dangerous ways.
'My hand was raised, my knife was bare;
With stealthy tread I stole along,
But a wild bird sprang from his hidden lair,
And woke her with a sudden song;
'Yet moved she not; she only raised
Her lids and on the bright sun gazed,
And uttered such a dreary sigh;
I thought just then she should not die,
Since misery was such misery.
'Now Douglas, for our hunted band,
For future joy and former woe,
Assist me with thy heart and hand
To send to hell my mortal foe.
Her friends fade first, that she may drain
A deeper cup of bitterer pain;
Yonder they stand and watch the waves
Dash in among the echoing caves.
Their farewell sight of earth and sea;
Come, Douglas, rise and go with me.'
The lark sang clearly overhead,
And sweetly hummed the bee;
And softly round their dying bed
The wind blew from the sea.
Fair Surry would have raised her eyes
To see that water shine;
To see once more in mountain skies
The summer sun decline;
But ever on her fading cheek
The languid lid would close,
As weary that such sight should break
Its much-desired repose.
And she was waning fast away—
Even Memory's voice grew dim;
Her former life's eventful day
Had dwindled to a dream;
And hardly could her mind recall
The thought of joy or pain;
That cloud was gathering over all
Which never clears again;
In vain—in vain—you need not gaze
Upon those features now!
That sinking head you need not raise,
Nor kiss that pulseless brow.
Let out the grief that shakes your breath;
Lord Lesley, let it free;
The sternest eye for such a death
Might fill with sympathy.
The tresses, o'er her bosom spread,
Were by a faint breeze blown;
'Her heart is beating,' Lesley said,
'She is not really gone.'
And still that form he fondly pressed,
And still of hope he dreamed,
Nor marked how from his own young breast
Life's crimson current streamed.
At last the sunshine left the ground,
The laden bee flew home,
The deep-down sea with sudden sound
Impelled its waves to foam.
The corse grew heavy on his arm,
The starry heaven grew dim,
The summer night so mild and warm
Felt wintry chill to him.
A troubled shadow o'er his eye
Came down, and rested there;
The moors and sky went swimming by,
Confused and strange and drear.
He faintly prayed, 'O Death, delay
Thy last fell dart to throw,
Till I can hear my sovereign say
The traitors' heads are low!
'God! guard her life, since not to me
That dearest boon was given;
God! bless her sun with victory,
Or bless not me with heaven!'
Douglas leaned above the well;
Then came the cry of agony,
The pang of parting pain;
And he had overpassed the sea,
That none can pass again.
Heather banks around him rose;
Bright and warm the sunshine fell
On that spot of sweet repose.
With the blue heaven bending o'er
And the soft wind singing by,
And the clear stream evermore
On the shady side reclined
He watched its waters play,
And sound and sight had well combined
To banish gloom away.
A voice spoke near. 'She'll come,' it said,
And, Douglas! thou shalt be
My love, altho' the very dead
Should rise to rival thee!
'Now only let thine arm be true,
And nerved, like mine, to kill;
And Gondal's royal race shall rue
This day on Elmor Hill!!!'
They wait not long, the rustling heath
Betrays their royal foe;
With hurried step and panting breath,
And cheek almost as white as death,
Augusta sprang below.
Yet marked she not where Douglas lay,
She only saw the well;
The tiny fountain, churning spray
Within its mossy cell.
'Oh! I have wrongs to pay,' she said;
'Give life, give vigour now.'
And stooping by the water's side
She drank the crystal flow.
And brightly with that draught came back
The glory of her matchless eye
As glancing o'er the moorland track,
She shook her head impatiently.
Nor shape—nor shade—the mountain flocks
Quietly fed in grassy dells;
Nor sound, except the distant rocks
Echoing to their bells.
She turns—she meets the murderer's gaze;
Her own is scorched with a sudden blaze.
The blood streams down her brow;
The blood streams through her coal-black hair,
She strikes it off with little care;
She scarcely feels the flow;
For she has marked and known him too,
And his own heart's ensanguined dew
Must slake her vengeance now!
False friend! no tongue save thine can tell
The mortal strife that then befell;
But, ere night darkened down
The stream in silence sang once more
And on its green bank, bathed in gore,
Augusta lay alone!
False Love! no earthly eye did see,
Yet heaven's pure eye regarded thee,
Where thy own Douglas bled;
How thou didst turn in mockery
From his last hopeless agony,
And leave the hungry hawk to be
Sole watcher of the dead!
Was it a deadly swoon?
Or was her spirit really gone?
And the cold corse beneath the moon
Laid like another mass of dust and stone?
The moon was full that night,
The sky was almost light like day;
You might have seen the pulses play
Upon her forehead white;
You might have seen the dear, dear light of life
In her uncovered eye;
And her cheek changing in the mortal strife
Betwixt the pain to live and agony to die.
But nothing mutable was there!
The face, all deadly fair,
Showed a fixed impress of keen suffering past,
And the raised lids did show
No wandering gleam below
But a dark anguish, self-destroyed at last.
Long he gazed and held his breath,
Kneeling on the blood-stained heath;
Long he gazed those lids beneath,
Looking into Death!
Not a word from his followers fell;
They stood by mute and pale;
That black treason uttered well
Its own heart-harrowing tale.
But earth was bathed in other gore;
There were crimson drops across the moor,
And Lord Eldred glancing round,
Saw those tokens on the ground.
'Bring him back!' he hoarsely said;
'Wounded is the traitor fled;
Vengeance may hold but minutes brief
And you have all your lives for grief.'
He is left alone—he sees the stars
Their quiet course continuing:
And, far away, down Elmor scars
He hears the stream its waters fling;
That lulling monotone did sing
Of broken rock and shaggy glen;
Of welcome for the moorcock's wing,
But not of wail for men!
Nothing of heaven or earth to show
One sign of sympathising woe,
And nothing but that agony
In her now unconscious eye,
To weigh upon the labouring breast
And prove she did not pass at rest.
But he who watched in thought had gone,
Retracing back her lifetime flown;
Like sudden ghosts, to memory came
Full many a face, and many a name,
Full many a heart, that in the tomb,
He almost deemed, might have throbbed again
Had they but known her dreary doom,
Had they but seen their idol then,
A wreck of desolate despair,
Left to the wild birds of the air,
And mountain winds and rain!
For him—no tear his stern eye shed
As he looked down upon the dead.
'Wild morn,' he thought, 'and doubtful noon;
But yet it was a glorious sun,
Though comet-like its course was run;
That sun should never have been given
To burn and dazzle in the heaven
Or night has quenched it far too soon!
And thou art gone—with all thy pride;
Thou, so adored, so dignified!
Cold as the earth, unweeting now
Of love, or joy, or mortal woe.
'For what thou wert I would not grieve,
But much for what thou wert to be;
That life so stormy and so brief,
That death has wronged us more than thee.
'Thy passionate youth was nearly past,
The opening sea seemed smooth at last;
Yet vainly flowed the calmer wave
Since fate had not decreed to save.
'And vain too must the sorrow be
Of those who live to mourn for thee;
But Gondal's foe shall not complain
That thy dear blood was poured in vain.'