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I stooped, methought, the dove to take,
When lo! I saw a bright green snake
Coiled around its wings and neck,
Green as the herbs on which it couched,
Close by the dove's its head it crouched ;
And with the dove it heaves and stirs,
Swelling its neck as she swelled hers !
I woke ; it was the midnight hour,
The clock was echoing in the tower;
But though my slumber was gone by,
This dream it would not pass away-
It seems to live upon my eye!
And thence I vowed this self-same day,
With music strong and saintly song
To wander through the forest bare,
Lest aught unholy loiter there."
Thus Bracy said : the Baron, the while, Half-listening heard him with a smile ; Then turned to Lady Geraldine, His
of wonder and love ; And said in courtly accents fine, “Sweet maid, Lord Roland's beautéous dove With arms more strong than harp or song, Thy sire and I will crush the snake !” He kissed her forehead as he spake, And Geraldine, in maiden wise, Casting down her large bright eyes, With blushing cheek and courtesy fine She turned her from Sir Leoline;
Softly gathering up her train,
That o'er her right arm fell again ;
And folded her arms across her chest,
And couched her head upon her breast,
And looked askance at Christabel-
Jesu Maria, shield her well!
A snake's small eye blinks dull and shy, And the lady's eyes they shrunk in her head, Each shrunk up to a serpent's eye, And with somewhat of malice, and more of dread, At Christabel she looked askance !One moment—and the sight was fled! But Christabel in dizzy trance Stumbling on the unsteady ground Shuddered aloud, with a hissing sound; And Geraldine again turned round, And like a thing, that sought relief, Full of wonder and full of grief, She rolled her large bright eyes divine Wildly on Sir Leoline.
The maid, alas ! her thoughts are gone,
She nothing sees—no sight but one !
The maid, devoid of guile and sin,
I know not how, in fearful wise
So deeply had she drunken in
That look, those shrunken serpent eyes,
That all her features were resigned
To this sole image in her mind;
And passively did imitate
That look of dull and treacherous hate !
And thus she stood in dizzy trance,
Still picturing that look askance
With forced unconscious sympathy
Full before her father's view-
As far as such a look could be,
In eyes so innocent and blue !
And when the trance was o'er the maid
Paused awhile, and inly prayed :
Then falling at the Baron's feet,
“By my mother's soul do I entreat
That thou this woman send away !”
She said : and more she could not say:
For what she knew she could not tell,
O’ermastered by the mighty spell.
Why is thy cheek so wan and wild, Sir Leoline ? Thy only child Lies at thy feet, thy joy, thy pride, So fair, so innocent, so mild; The same, for whom thy lady died ! O by the pangs of her dear mother Think thou no evil of thy child ! For her, and thee, and for no other, She prayed the moment ere she died : Prayed that the babe for whom she died, Might prove her dear lord's joy and pride! That prayer her deadly pangs beguiled,
Sir Leoline !
And wouldst thou wrong thy only child,
Her child and thine ?
Within the Baron's heart and brain
If thoughts, like these, had any share,
They only swelled his rage and pain,
And did but work confusion there.
His heart was cleft with pain and rage,
His cheeks they quivered, his eyes were wild.
Dishonoured thus in his old age ;
Dishonoured by his only child,
And all his hospitality
To the wronged daughter of his friend
By more than woman's jealousy
Brought thus to a disgraceful end-
He rolled his eye with stern regard
Upon the gentle minstrel bard,
And said in tones abrupt, austere-
Why, Bracy! dost thou loiter here?
I bade thee hence !” The bard obeyed ;
And turning from his own sweet maid,
The aged knight, Sir Leoline,
Led forth the lady Geraldine !
A fairy thing with red round cheeks,
That always finds, and never seeks,
Makes such a vision to the sight
As fills a father's eyes with light ;
And pleasures flow in so thick and fast
Upon his heart, that he at last
Must needs express his love's excess
With words of unmeant bitterness.
Perhaps ’tis pretty to force together
Thoughts so all unlike each other;
To mutter and mock a broken charm,
To dally with wrong that does no harm.
Perhaps ’tis tender too and pretty
At each wild word to feel within
A sweet recoil of love and pity.
And what, if in a world of sin
(O sorrow and shame should this be true !)
Such giddiness of heart and brain
Comes seldom save from rage and pain,
So talks as it's most used to do.
Part I., 1797.—PART II., 1800.