Samuel Rogers

(30 July 1763 – 18 December 1855)

Italy : 13. Coll'Alto - Poem by Samuel Rogers

'In this neglected mirror (the broad frame
Of massy silver serves to testify
That many a noble matron of the house
Has sat before it) once, alas, was seen
What led to many sorrows. From that time
The bat came hither for a sleeping place;
And he, that cursed another in his heart,
Said, 'Be thy dwelling, thro' the day and night,
Shunned like Coll'Alto.'' -- 'Twas in that old Pile,
Which flanks the cliff with its grey battlements
Flung here and there, and, like an eagle's nest
Hangs in the Trevisan, that thus the Steward,
Shaking his locks, the few that Time had left,
Addressed me, as we entered what was called
'My Lady's Chamber.' On the walls, the chairs,
Much yet remained of the rich tapestry;
Much of the adventures of Sir Lancelot
In the green glades of some enchanted wood.
The toilet-table was of silver wrought,
Florentine Art, when Florence was renowned;
A gay confusion of the elements,
Dolphins and boys, and shells and fruits and flowers;
And from the ceiling, in his gilded cage,
Hung a small bird of curious workmanship,
That, when his Mistress bade him, would unfold
(So says the babbling Dame, Tradition, there)
His emerald-wings, and sing and sing again
The song that pleased her. While I stood and looked,
A gleam of day yet lingering in the West,
The Steward went on. 'She had ('tis now long since)
A gentle serving-maid, the fair Cristine,
Fair as a lily, and as spotless too;
None so admired, beloved. They had grown up
As play-fellows; and some there were, that said,
Some that knew much, discoursing of Cristine
'She is not what she seems.' When unrequired,
She would steal forth; her custom, her delight,
To wander thro' and thro' an ancient grove
Self-planted half-way down, losing herself
Like one in love with sadness; and her veil
And vesture white, seen ever in that place,
Ever as surely as the hours came round,
Among those reverend trees, gave her below
The name of The White Lady. But the day
Is gone, and I delay thee.
In that chair
The Countess, as it might be now, was sitting,
The gentle serving-maid, the fair Cristine,
Combing her golden hair; and thro' this door
The Count, her lord, was hastening, called away
By letters of great urgency to Venice;
When in the glass she saw, as she believed,
('Twas an illusion of the Evil One --
Some say he came and crossed it at the time)
A smile, a glance at parting, given and answered,
That turned her blood to gall. That very night
The deed was done. That night, ere yet the Moon
Was up on Monte Calvo, and the wolf
Baying as still he does, (oft is he heard,
An hour or more, by the old turret-clock,)
They led her forth, the unhappy lost Cristine,
Helping her down in her distress -- to die.
'No blood was spilt; no instrument of death
Lurked -- or stood forth, declaring its bad purpose;
Nor was a hair of her unblemished head
Hurt in that hour. Fresh as a flower just blown,
And warm with life, her youthful pulses playing,
She was walled up within the Castle-wall.
The wall itself was hollowed secretly;
Then closed again, and done to line and rule.
Would'st thou descend? ---- 'Tis in a darksome vault
Under the Chapel: and there nightly now,
As in the narrow niche, when smooth and fair,
And as if nothing had been done or thought,
The stone-work rose before her, till the light
Glimmered and went -- there nightly at that hour,
(Thou smil'st, and would it were an idle tale!)
In her white veil and vesture white she stands
Shuddering -- her eyes uplifted, and her hands
Joined as in prayer; then, like a Blessed Soul
Bursting the tomb, springs forward, and away
Flies o'er the woods and mountains. Issuing forth,
The hunter meets her in his hunting-track;
The shepherd on the heath, starting, exclaims
(For still she bears the name she bore of old)
''Tis the White Lady!''

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Poem Submitted: Friday, September 3, 2010

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