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.—
In her chamber, one11
Sleepless alone remained, where all was still ;12
Reclining on a couch, and dreaming o’er13
The thoughts—the happy scenes of other years ;14
And, with a sweet, seraphic countenance,15
Shining in beauty and in solitude,16
Like morning’s rosy star, when from the sky17
Her sisters have in silence disappeared.18
Sorrowful Emma ! were not thine of yore19
Thoughts of unrest, and mournful countenance !20
But sparkling eyes, that matched unclouded heaven21
In their deep azure ; and carnationed cheeks,22
Round which the snow-drops like a halo spread ;23
And an elastic footstep, like the nymph24
Health, when in very wantonness of play,25
She brushes from the green the dews of morn.26
And why, wrapt up in cloak of eider-down,27
Chilling thy beauty in the midnight air,28
Breathing, in solitude, the deep-drawn sigh,29
Con’st thou, unheard of all, the love-born tale,30
The tale of hapless lovers, soft and sad ;31
And why, when all is still, and balmy sleep32
Should seal the weary eyelids, dost thou sit33
Mournfully beside the lattice, and attend34
To the hollow murmurs of the distant sea,35
Which fitfully, upon the passing gale36
Break in, and die away ?— ——
The winter’s breath37
Destroys the bloomy flowers—the ocean tide38
Is governed by the moon ; and, for thy grief,39
Although unmarked by all, there is a cause !40
And she hath laid her down, and silently,41
As Retrospection wandered through the past,42
Have her chaste eyelids closed ; and, in her dream,43
Lo ! forests darken round with gloomy boughs,44
And wolves are heard to howl ; around her path45
The forky lightnings flash ; and deeply loud,46
The thunders roll amid the blackening skies.—47
Anon her steps have gained a precipice48
Above the roaring sea, where, waste and wild,49
The foamy billows chafe among the rocks—50
The rocks whose sable heads, at intervals,51
Are seen and disappear.  Awfully dark52
Night’s shadows brood around ; but, in the flash53
Of the blue arrowy lightnings, far away54
A vessel is descried upon the deep ;55
While moaning sounds are heard, and dismal shrieks56
O’er the tempestuous billows breaking loud ;57
Until its stormy fury vented forth,58
And the winds hushed to silence and to rest,59
And the bright stars appearing, and the clouds60
Breaking away, like armies from the field61
When battle’s clangor ceases,—she beholds,62
Pallid beneath a cliff, the form of him,63
Her chosen hero, bleached by wave and wind,64
Unconscious of the seamew with a shriek 65
Hovering around—the victim of the storm !66
Anon the vision changes ; armies throng67
The arid fields of Palestine afar,68
And, glittering in the setting sun, she sees69
The Moorish crescent over Salem’s walls,70
The Infidel victorious, and the hosts71
Of baffled Christendom dispersed : she sees72
Disasters and defeat the lot of those,73
Who, ’neath Godfredo’s banner, daring, left74
On perilous enterprise their native shore.—75
The battle’s voice hath ceased ; the trumpet’s note76
Hath died upon the west-wind ; bird and beast,77
From mountain cliff on high, and woody dell,78
Lured by the scent of blood, have come to gorge79
On the unburied dead.  Rider and horse,80
The lofty and the low, commingled, lie81
Unbreathing, and the balmy evening gale82
Fitfully lifts the feathers on the crest83
Of one, who slumbers with his vizor up !84
Starting she wakes ; and, o’er the eastern hill,85
Lo ! beautiful the radiant morn appears,86
And, thro’ the lattice, steadily streams in87
The flood of crimson light ; while, sitting there88
Upon the outward ivy wreath, in joy89
Happy the robin sings ; his lucid tones90
Of harmony delight her listening ear,91
Dispel the gathered sadness of her heart,92
And, tell her that her fears are but a dream.93
But hark ! why sounded is the warder’s horn ?—94
Doth danger threaten, or do foes approach ?—95
The guard are at their station ; and, she hears96
The ring of brazen arms, as anxious there97
The soldiers, girding on their swords, draw up ;98
The bugle’s sound of peace is faintly heard,99
Mournfully pleasing, in a dying strain,100
Melodious—melancholy—far away !101
An answer is returned ; heavily down102
Sinks the huge drawbridge and the iron tramp103
Of steeds is heard fast-crossing.  Joy to her,104
To long forsaken Emma, joy to her !—105
Obscured by tempests dark, and brooding storms,106
The sun may wander through the sky unseen107
The livelong day ; until, above the tops108
Of the steep western mountains, forth he glows,109
Glorious, the centre of a crimson flood,110
In brightness unapproachable : so oft111
The span of human life is measured out :112
Sorrow and care, companions of our steps,113
Hover around us, blotting out the hopes114
We long had cherished ; banishing the bliss115
We oft have tasted, till our path is dark ;116
Then lo ! amid the gloom of hope deferred,117
Breaks in a blessed light, a living day,118
Like that of polar regions, glowing bright,119
Unclouded, and unconscious of an end.—120
A group of happy faces throng the hall,121
And scarce hath Emma entered, like a flower122
Blushing, and beautiful, with downcast eyes,123
And palpitating bosom, ere her knight,124
Young Ethelrid, from holy wars returned125
With laurels on his crest to part no more,126
Kneels faithful at her feet in ecstasy,127
And lifts her snowy fingers to his lips.128