Page images
PDF
EPUB

He told ; and oftentimes with voice
Of power to comfort or rejoice ;
For deepest sorrows that aspire,
Go high, no transport ever higher.
* Yes, God is rich in mercy,” said
The old Man to the silent Maid;
" Yet, Lady! shines, through this black night,
One star of aspect heavenly bright;
Your Brother lives, — he lives, is come
Perhaps already to his home;
Then let us leave this dreary place.”
She yielded, and with gentle pace,
Though without one uplifted look,
To Rylstone hall her way she took.

CANTO SIXTH.

Why comes not Francis ? — From the doleful City
He fled, — and, in his flight, could hear
The death-sounds of the Minster bell:
That sullen stroke pronounced farewell
To Marmaduke, cut off from pity!
To Ambrose that! and then a knell
For him, the sweet, half-opened Flower!
For all, — all dying in one hour!

Why comes not Francis ? Thoughts of love
Should bear him to his Sister dear
With the fleet motion of a dove;

Yea, like a heavenly messenger
Of speediest wing should he appear.
Why comes he not? for westward fast
Along the plain of York he past ;
Reckless of what impels or leads,
Unchecked he hurries on ;-

- nor heeds
The sorrow, through the Villages,
Spread by triumphant cruelties
Of vengeful military force,
And punishment without remorse.
He marked not, heard not, as he fled;
All but the suffering heart was dead
For him abandoned to blank awe,
To vacancy, and horror strong:
And the first object which he saw,
With conscious sight, as he swept along, —
It was the Banner in his hand !
He felt, – and made a sudden stand.

He looked about like one betrayed : What hath he done? what promise made? O weak, weak moment, to what end Can such a vain oblation tend, And he the Bearer? — Can he go, Carrying this instrument of woe, And find, find anywhere, a right To excuse him in his country's sight? No; will not all men deem the change A downward course, perverse and strange? Here is it; — but how? when? must she,

The unoffending Emily,
Again this piteous object see?

Such conflict long did he maintain, Nor liberty, nor rest could gain : His own life into danger brought By this sad burden, — even that thought, Exciting self-suspicion strong, Swayed the brave man to his wrong. And how, - unless it were the sense Of all-disposing Providence, Its will unquestionably shown, How has the Banner clung so fast To a palsied and unconscious hand; Clung to the hand to which it passed Without impediment? And why But that Heaven's purpose might be known Doth now no hindrance meet his eye, No intervention, to withstand Fulfilment of a Father's prayer Breathed to a Son forgiven, and blest When all resentments were at rest, And life in death laid the heart bare ? Then, like a spectre sweeping by, Rushed through his mind the prophecy Of utter desolation made To Emily in the yew-tree shade: He sighed, submitting will and power To the stern embrace of that grasping hour. “No choice is left, the deed is mine,

Dead are they, dead !

and I will go, And, for their sakes, come weal or woe, Will lay the Relic on the shrine.”

So forward with a steady will
He went, and traversed plain and hill;
And

up

the vale of Wharf his way
Pursued ;-— and, at the dawn of day,
Attained a summit whence his eyes
Could see the Tower of Bolton rise.
There Francis for a moment's space
Made halt;- but hark! a noise behind
Of horsemen at an eager pace!
He heard, and with misgiving mind.

- 'T is Sir George Bowes who leads the Band:
They come, by cruel Sussex sent;
Who, when the Nortons from the hand
Of death had drunk their punishment,
Bethought him, angry and ashamed,
How Francis, with the Banner claimed
As his own charge, had disappeared,
By all the standers-by revered.
His whole bold carriage (which had quelled
Thus far the Opposer, and repelled
All censure, enterprise so bright
That even bad men had vainly striven
Against that overcoming light)
Was then reviewed, and prompt word given,
That, to what place soever fled,
He should be seized, alive or dead.

The troop of horse have gained the height Where Francis stood in open sight. They hem him round, -"Behold the proof," They cried, "the Ensign in his hand ! He did not arm, he walked aloof! For why?

to save his Father's land; Worst Traitor of them all is he, A Traitor dark and cowardly!”

“I am no Traitor,” Francis said,
“Though this unhappy freight I bear;
And must not part with. But beware ;
Err not, hy hasty zeal misled,
Nor do a suffering Spirit wrong,
Whose self-reproaches are too strong!”
At this he from the beaten road
Retreated towards a brake of thorn,
That like a place of vantage showed ;
And there stood bravely, though forlorn.
In self-defence with warlike brow
He stood,

nor weaponless was now;
He from a Soldier's hand had snatched
A spear, - and, so protected, watched
The Assailants, turning round and round;
But from behind with treacherous wound
A Spearman brought him to the ground.
The guardian lance, as Francis fell,
Dropped from him ; but his other hand
The Banner clenched ; till, from out the Band,
One, the most eager for the prize,

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »