Emma.—A Tale.

Hushed were the tones of mirthful revelry,1
Stayed were the music and the dance, as fell2
On Croydon’s Gothic towers and battlements,3
The shades of dreary midnight. In the hall4
The hearth’s brands were decaying ; but a flame5
Lambently lighted up the vaulted roof,6
And circling walls, where antlers branching wide,7
And forehead skins of elk and deer were seen,8
And fox’s brush ; the trophies of the chase ;9
And warriors cloaks depending, and the gleam10
Of burnished armour.—11
In her chamber, one12
Sleepless alone remained, where all was still ;13
Reclining on a couch, and dreaming o’er14
The thoughts—the happy scenes of other years ;15
And, with a sweet, seraphic countenance,16
Shining in beauty and in solitude,17
Like morning’s rosy star, when from the sky18
Her sisters have in silence disappeared.19
Sorrowful Emma ! were not thine of yore20
Thoughts of unrest, and mournful countenance !21
But sparkling eyes, that matched unclouded heaven22
In their deep azure ; and carnationed cheeks,23
Round which the snow-drops like a halo spread ;24
And an elastic footstep, like the nymph25
Health, when in very wantonness of play,26
She brushes from the green the dews of morn.27
And why, wrapt up in cloak of eider-down,28
Chilling thy beauty in the midnight air,29
Breathing, in solitude, the deep-drawn sigh,30
Con’st thou, unheard of all, the love-born tale,31
The tale of hapless lovers, soft and sad ;32
And why, when all is still, and balmy sleep33
Should seal the weary eyelids, dost thou sit34
Mournfully beside the lattice, and attend35
To the hollow murmurs of the distant sea,36
Which fitfully, upon the passing gale37
Break in, and die away ?— ——38
The winter’s breath39
Destroys the bloomy flowers—the ocean tide40
Is governed by the moon ; and, for thy grief,41
Although unmarked by all, there is a cause !42
And she hath laid her down, and silently,43
As Retrospection wandered through the past,44
Have her chaste eyelids closed ; and, in her dream,45
Lo ! forests darken round with gloomy boughs,46
And wolves are heard to howl ; around her path47
The forky lightnings flash ; and deeply loud,48
The thunders roll amid the blackening skies.—49
Anon her steps have gained a precipice50
Above the roaring sea, where, waste and wild,51
The foamy billows chafe among the rocks—52
The rocks whose sable heads, at intervals,53
Are seen and disappear.  Awfully dark54
Night’s shadows brood around ; but, in the flash55
Of the blue arrowy lightnings, far away56
A vessel is descried upon the deep ;57
While moaning sounds are heard, and dismal shrieks58
O’er the tempestuous billows breaking loud ;59
Until its stormy fury vented forth,60
And the winds hushed to silence and to rest,61
And the bright stars appearing, and the clouds62
Breaking away, like armies from the field63
When battle’s clangor ceases,—she beholds,64
Pallid beneath a cliff, the form of him,65
Her chosen hero, bleached by wave and wind,66
Unconscious of the seamew with a shriek 67
Hovering around—the victim of the storm !68
Anon the vision changes ; armies throng69
The arid fields of Palestine afar,70
And, glittering in the setting sun, she sees71
The Moorish crescent over Salem’s walls,72
The Infidel victorious, and the hosts73
Of baffled Christendom dispersed : she sees74
Disasters and defeat the lot of those,75
Who, ’neath Godfredo’s banner, daring, left76
On perilous enterprise their native shore.—77
The battle’s voice hath ceased ; the trumpet’s note78
Hath died upon the west-wind ; bird and beast,79
From mountain cliff on high, and woody dell,80
Lured by the scent of blood, have come to gorge81
On the unburied dead.  Rider and horse,82
The lofty and the low, commingled, lie83
Unbreathing, and the balmy evening gale84
Fitfully lifts the feathers on the crest85
Of one, who slumbers with his vizor up !86
Starting she wakes ; and, o’er the eastern hill,87
Lo ! beautiful the radiant morn appears,88
And, thro’ the lattice, steadily streams in89
The flood of crimson light ; while, sitting there90
Upon the outward ivy wreath, in joy91
Happy the robin sings ; his lucid tones92
Of harmony delight her listening ear,93
Dispel the gathered sadness of her heart,94
And, tell her that her fears are but a dream.95
But hark ! why sounded is the warder’s horn ?—96
Doth danger threaten, or do foes approach ?—97
The guard are at their station ; and, she hears98
The ring of brazen arms, as anxious there99
The soldiers, girding on their swords, draw up ;100
The bugle’s sound of peace is faintly heard,101
Mournfully pleasing, in a dying strain,102
Melodious—melancholy—far away !103
An answer is returned ; heavily down104
Sinks the huge drawbridge and the iron tramp105
Of steeds is heard fast-crossing.  Joy to her,106
To long forsaken Emma, joy to her !—107
Obscured by tempests dark, and brooding storms,108
The sun may wander through the sky unseen109
The livelong day ; until, above the tops110
Of the steep western mountains, forth he glows,111
Glorious, the centre of a crimson flood,112
In brightness unapproachable : so oft113
The span of human life is measured out :114
Sorrow and care, companions of our steps,115
Hover around us, blotting out the hopes116
We long had cherished ; banishing the bliss117
We oft have tasted, till our path is dark ;118
Then lo ! amid the gloom of hope deferred,119
Breaks in a blessed light, a living day,120
Like that of polar regions, glowing bright,121
Unclouded, and unconscious of an end.—122
A group of happy faces throng the hall,123
And scarce hath Emma entered, like a flower124
Blushing, and beautiful, with downcast eyes,125
And palpitating bosom, ere her knight,126
Young Ethelrid, from holy wars returned127
With laurels on his crest to part no more,128
Kneels faithful at her feet in ecstasy,129
And lifts her snowy fingers to his lips.130