Isabella Valancy Crawford

(25 December 1850 – 12 February 1887 / Dublin, Ireland)

Mary's Tryst - Poem by Isabella Valancy Crawford

Young Mary stole along the vale,
To keep her tryst with Ulnor's lord;
A warrior clad in coat of mail
Stood darkling by the brawling ford.

'O let me pass; O let me pass,
Dark falls the night on hill and lea;
Flies, flies the bright day swift and fast,
From lordly bower and greenwood tree.
The small birds twitter as they fly
To dewy bough and leaf-hid nest;
Dark fold the black clouds on the sky,
And maiden terrors throng my breast!'

'And thou shalt pass, thou bonnie maid,
If thou wilt only tell to me--
Why hiest thou forth in lonesome shade;
Where may thy wish'd-for bourne be?'
'O let me by, O let me by,
My granddam dwells by Ulnor's shore;
She strains for me her failing eye--
Beside her lowly ivied door.'

'I rode by Ulnor's shore at dawn,
I saw no ancient dame and cot;
I saw but startl'd doe and fawn--
Thy bourne thou yet hast told me not.'
'O let me pass--my father lies
Long-stretch'd in coffin and in shroud,--
Where Ulnor's turrets climb the skies,
Where Ulnor's battlements are proud!'

'I rode by Ulnor's walls at noon;
I heard no bell for passing sprite;
And saw no henchman straik'd for tomb;
Thou hast not told thy bourne aright.'
'O let me pass--a monk doth dwell
In lowly hut by Ulnor's shrine;
I seek the holy friar's cell,
That he may shrive this soul of mine.'

'I rode by Ulnor's shrine this day,
I saw no hut--no friar's cowl;
I heard no holy hermit pray--
I heard but hooting of the owl!'
'O let me pass--time flies apace--
And since thou wilt not let me be;
I tryst with chief of Ulnor's race,
Beneath the spreading hawthorn tree!'

'I rode beside the bonnie thorn,
When this day's sun was sinking low;
I saw a damsel like the morn,
I saw a knight with hound and bow;
The chief was chief of Ulnor's name,
The maid was of a high degree;
I saw him kiss the lovely dame,
I saw him bend the suitor's knee!

'I saw the fond glance of his eye
To her red cheek red roses bring;
Between them, as my steed flew by,
I saw them break a golden ring.'
'O wouldst thou know, thou curious knight,
Where Mary's bourne to-night will be?
Since thou has seen such traitor sight,
Beneath the blooming hawthorn tree.'

Fair shone the yellow of her locks,
Her cheek and bosom's drifted snow;
She leap'd adown the sharp grey rocks,
She sought the sullen pool below.
The knight his iron vizard rais'd,
He caught young Mary to his heart;
She lifted up her head and gaz'd--
She drew her yellow locks apart.

* * * * *

The roses touch'd her lovely face;
The lilies white did faint and flee;
The knight was chief of Ulnor's race,--
His only true love still was she!

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Poem Submitted: Tuesday, April 20, 2010

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