Landon in The Literary Gazette 1824/Knight’sTale
Literary Gazette, 31st July, 1824, Pages 492
Fifth Series.—Sketch the Third.
THE KNIGHT'S TALE.
Oh, there are evil moments in our life,
When but a thought, a word, a look, has power
To dash the cup of happiness aside,
And stamp us wretched!
And there are bitter tears in Arnold's hall—
A wail of passionate lament! The night
Is on the towers, but night has not brought
Silence and sleep. A sound is in the courts,
Of arms and armed men; the ring of spears,
The tramp of iron feet, and voices, mixed
In deep confusion. With the morning's rise,
Lord Arnold leads these men to Palestine.
There were two figures on a terrace, raised
O'er all the rest. The moon was on its sweep,
Lighting the landscape's midnight loveliness!
Below it, first were gardens set with flowers,
In beds of many shape and quaint device,
So very sweet they filled the air with scents;
Beyond, the ground was steep and rough; dwarf oaks
Spring on the sides, but all the nobler growth
Of those proud trees was seen in yon dark wood,
Its world of leaves blent with the distant sky,
And sheltering a green park, where the smooth grass
Was fitting herbage for the gentle fawn,
Which sported by its mother's spotted side,
And some so white that in the moon they shone
Like silver. In the midst, a diamond sheet
Of clear bright water spread, and on its breast
There was a group of swans; and there was one,
Laid on a little island which the leaves
Of the waterflag had made; and suddenly
A sound of music rose, and leaf and flower
Seemed hushed to hear the sweet and solemn hymn
Sung by the dying swan. And then the two
Upon the terrace, who as yet had looked
But in each other's eyes, turned to the lake:
It was to them, even as if their love
Had made itself a voice to breathe Farewell!—
Ceased the unearthly song, and Adeline
Threw her on Arnold's breast, and wept, and said
It was her warrior's dirge and hers—for never
Such sad sweet sounds had breathed on mortal ear,
And yet no omen. But her Arnold kiss'd
Her tears away; and whispered 'twas the song
Of some kind Spirit, who would guard his love
While he was fighting for the Cross afar.
Oh, who can tell the broken-heartedness
Of parting moments!—the fond words that gush
From the full heart, and yet die in the throat,
Whose pulses are too choked for utterance;
The lingering look of eyes, half blind with tears;
The yet more lingering kiss, as if it were
The last long breath of life! Then the slow step,
Changing anon to one of hurried speed,
As that the heart doubted its own resolve!
The fixed gaze of her, who, left behind,
Watching till shadows grow reality!
And then the sudden and sick consciousness—
How desolate we are!—Oh, misery!
Thy watchword is, Farewell!—And Arnold took
A few sweet buds from off a myrtle tree,
And swore to Adeline, before the spring
Had covered twice that plant with its white flowers
He would return. With the next morning's sun
Lord Arnold led his vassals to the war,
And Adeline was left to solitude—
The worst of solitude, of home and heart.
If I must part from those whom I have loved,
Let me, too, part from where they were beloved!
It wrings the heart to see each thing the same;
Tread over the same steps; and then to find
The difference in the heart. It is so sad—
So very lonely—to be the sole one
In whom there is a sign of change! - - -
There are two words to tell the warrior's course,
Valour and Victory. But fortune changed,
And Arnold was a prisoner at last.
And there he lay and pined, till hope grew tired,
Even of its sweet self; and now despair
Reached its last stage, for it was grown familiar.
Change came, when there was not a thought of change
But in his dreams. Thanks to a pitying Slave
Whom he had spared in battle, he escaped!
And over sea and land the pilgrim went.
It was a summer evening, when again
He stood before his castle, and he paused
In the excess of happiness. The sun
Had set behind the towers, whose square heights
Divided the red west; and on its verge,
Just where the crimson faded, was a star—
The twilight star—pale, like dew turned to light.
And on he went thro' his fair park, and past
The lake and its white swans: at length he came
To his sweet garden and its thousand flowers.
The roses were in blossom, and the air
Oppressed him with its fragrance. On a walk,
As if just fallen from some beauty's hair,
There lay a branch of myrtle—Arnold caught
Its leaves, and kiss'd them!—Sure, 'twas Adeline's!
He stood now by a little alcove, made
Of flowers and green boughs—Adeline is there—
But, woe for Arnold, she is not alone!—
So lovely, and so false!—There, there she sat,
Her white arm round his neck, and her fair brow
Bowed on his shoulder, while her long black hair
Streamed o'er his bosom—There they sat, so still,
Like statues in that light; and Arnold thought
How often he had leant with Adeline
In such sweet silence. But they rose to go;
And then he marked how tenderly the youth
Drew his cloak round her, lest the dew should fall
Upon her fragile beauty. They were gone—
And Arnold threw him on the turf, which still
Retained the pressure of her fairy feet—
Then started wildly from the ground, and fled
As life and death were on his speed. His towers
Were but a little distant from the sea;
And ere the morning broke, Arnold was tossed
Far over the blue wave. He did not go,
As the young warrior goes, with hope and pride,
As he once went; but as a pilgrim, roamed
O'er other countries, any but his own.
At last his steps sought pleasant Italy.
It was one autumn evening that he reached
A little valley in the Apennine:
It lay amid the heights—a resting place
Of quiet and deep beauty. On one side
A forest of a thousand pines arose,
Darkened with many winters; on the left
Stood the steep-crags, where, even in July,
The white snow lay, carved into curious shapes
Of turret, pinnacle, and battlement;
And in the front, the opening mountains showed
The smiling plains of grape-clad Tuscany;
And farther still was caught the sky-like sweep
Of the blue ocean. Small white cottages
And olive trees filled up the dell. But, hid
By the sole group of cypresses, whose boughs,
As the green weeping of the sea-weed, hung
Like grief or care around, a temple stood
Of purest marble, with its carved dome
And white corinthian pillars strangely wreathed
By the thick ivy leaves. In other days,
Some nymph or goddess had been worshipped there,
Whose name was gone, even from her own shrine.
The cross stood on the altar, and above
There hung the picture of Saint Valerie:
Its pale calm beauty suited well the maid,
Who left the idol pleasures of the world
For solitude and heaven in early youth.
And Arnold knelt to the sweet saint, and prayed
For pity and for pardon; and his heart
Clung to the place, and thought upon repose.
He made himself a home in the same cave
Where once St. Valerie had dwelt: a rill,
That trickled from the rock above, his drink,
The mountain fruits his food: and there he lived:
Peasants, and one or two tired pilgrims, all
That e'er disturbed his hermit solitude.
Long months had passed away, when one hot noon
He sat beneath the cypresses, and saw
A pilgrim slowly urging up the height.
The sun was on her head, yet turned she not
To seek the shade; beside, the path was rough;
Yet there she toiled, though the green turf was near.
At last she reached the shrine—and Arnold knew
His Adeline! Her slender frame was bent,
And her small feet left a red trace behind—
The blood flowed from them. And he saw her kneel,
And heard her pray for him and his return.
"Adeline! art thou true?"—One moment more
Her head is on his bosom, and his lips
Feeding on her pale cheek!—He heard it all—
How that youth was her brother, just returned
From fighting with the Infidels in Spain;
That he had gone to Palestine to seek
Some tidings of her Arnold; and, meanwhile,
Herself had vowed a barefoot pilgrimage
To pray St. Valerie to bless the search!—
And she indeed had blessed it!—
There is that English castle once again,
With its green sweep of park and its clear lake;
And there that bower; and in its shade is placed
A statue of St. Valerie; and a shrine,
Graven with names of those who placed it here,
Record and tribute of their happiness—
Arnold and Adeline!L. E. L.
- This poem appears in The Vow of the Peacock and Other Poems (1835)
- The Vow of the Peacock version has 'Gathered'
- The Vow of the Peacock version has 'Watches'
- The Vow of the Peacock version has 'a stranger's neck, her fair brow'