Moods of the Mind.

No IV.

The Forayer.

An old oak forest rose upon my sight,1
Fantastic, with its wreathed and knotted boughs ;2
’Twas at a summer. evening’s gentle close ;3
And yet the peaks of broomy hills were bright4
With lingering sunshine, but their sides arose5
In darkness, ’mid the fast decaying light ;6
And, ever and anon, the passing breeze7
Stirred, with a transient breath, the aged trees.8
And on a mound, beside a quiet lake,9
In which the darkened woods reflected lay,10
A castle reared its walls, and turrets gray,11
As gray as lichen, and as time can make ;12
And near the landward entrance in the bay,13
Their evening thirst where meek-eyed cattle slake,14
The dark portcullis hangs, with iron frown,15
Throwing its cumbrous chains in masses down.16
And lo ! a neighing steed comes down the dale,17
Weary with travel, glad at sight of home,18
Its glossy sides and neck besprent with foam19
The rider’s morion dancing in the gale ;20
With deep red stain through yonder crevice roam21
The sunbeams, glowing on his burnish’d mail ;22
A champion fitted for his bustling age,23
Within whose breast the fiery passions rage.24
His joy is in the foray, in the fight,25
The nightly rescue, and the plundered hall,26
To drive the lowing cattle from the stall,27
And fire the hostile roof ’mid dreary night ;28
His is a lawless life, that holds in thrall29
All, that we deem of conscience or of right,30
That rushes down the stream of passion’s course,31
And sinks within the whirlpool of remorse !32
And on his dying bed, when withering age33
Hath reft his strength, and bleach’d his tresses gray,34
He speeds his henchman to the next Abbaye35
To bring a holy Abbot, to assuage36
His mortal pangs, and teach his lips to pray37
Once, ere he leave this sublunary stage ;38
Yet doth he deem repentance comes in time,39
Giving an hour of prayer for. years of crime !40
And he hath perished, and his father’s son41
Reigns in his stead, as lawless and as bold;42
And, as he emulates his sires of old,43
Thinks as they thought, and does what they have done,44
Until the circuit of his year have rolled,45
And heavy clouds surround his setting sun,46
Then in the vault he rests, and, proudly tall;47
Another paces the ancestral hall.48
But Error shall not live, and, though the gleam49
Of bright romance, on evil ways, and men,50
And deeds, that well become the tiger’s den,51
Flash o’er our startled souls with dazzling beam,52
And for a while bewilder us, ’tis when53
The soul grows tranquil, that we best may deem54
Where cloudless Hope and Happiness can dwell,55
If not with purity in Virtue’s cell.56
The pageant passed away: the castle towers57
Remained, but all untenanted and lone ;58
The ivy clung around the mouldering stone ;59
And, on the roofless walls, bloomed natural flowers ;60
Through crevices the winds did make their moan,61
And through the thin-leav’d oaks, and mouldering bowers62
No voice was heard, except the fox’s howl63
Afar, or nearer whoop of boding owl.64
But, far and near, on hillside, and in dell,65
Gleamed cottage windows, through the dim twilight,66
With hospitable ray, a welcome sight67
For social hearts, and wayworn men to hail,68
And cultivated farms and pastures bright69
Outspread ; and, where the warrior frowned in mail,70
Amid his armed bands, who loved turmoil,71
Maids sung, and ploughboys whistled at their toil.72