The Bird Of Ellerslee - Canto Iii Poem by Timothy Thomas Fortune

The Bird Of Ellerslee - Canto Iii

Through all of life there runs a vein
Of mystery—of joy and pain,
Of hope and disappointment, and
Of hate and love. In every land,
In every age, the wise and good—
In cloister cell's dark solitude,
In private homes and college walls,
In humble huts and stately halls—
Have sought this riddle to unmask,
But found it was a hopeless task.
Nothing we do has made it plain—
The why of Joy, the why of Pain.
As 'twas when Father Time began—
With but one woman and one man—
So it is now, a mystery still,
To thwart the soul, to curb the will.
We need, indeed, celestial light
To read Life's darksome riddle right.

The savage chief, under the spell
Of love, howe'er he may rebel,
Pursues no more th' exciting chase,
Nor courts grim war's forbidding face,
Nor lingers by the rambling stream;
Or slumberous lake's unruffled dream;
But spends his hours the woods among,
Stolid, by soft desires unstrung;
And all his fancies colored are
By rays of Love's resplendent star;
A god or devils in the shade
Primeval, by his passion made!

His dusky choice becomes a queen,
Present to him in every scene,
Eclipsing all of womankind
In form and face and gifts of mind,
With eyes in which he clearly reads
Th' inspiration of heroic deeds.
His narrow world grows narrower still
While yielding to her gentle will;
And he is happier, manlier, far,
Than when the chase or barbarous war
Called him o'er winding dale and hill
His mission in the world to fill.
Suppose he wins the woman's love,
Ensnares her as he would a dove,
And sinks into a brute again—
A crafty, haughty, savage, vain—
Love made him for a fleeting hour
As Romeo was in Juliet's power.

So lords and princelings of the earth,
Born to luxury and ease and mirth,
Do barter often everything
That to one woman they may cling;
And, not unlike the savage, they
Too often put the wife away,
Or torture her with taunts and jeers
And base neglect, till woe and tears
Drive her to madness or divorce—
There's not much choice in either course!
The savage chief and brutal lord
Are neither bound by oath nor word;
The faithful record plainly shows
That each one gives but takes no blows,
Because the victim is too weak
Upon the brute revenge to wreak!
The object gained, the longings cease,
Too oft, for man is hard to please,
And spurious love, from friendship grown,
Returns to friendship as its own,
Or hate or desperate, bloody, crimes,
That shock the purists of the times.

But love, true love! The beggar blind,
Groping, brooding, sick of mind,
Sees, through the mists of vanished time,
Her who had made his youth sublime,
Nerved him to work, in joy and pain,
Conscious he labored not in vain!
The blackness of his sightless night
Was bright with love's all-conquering light;
A woman's tender voice and care
Were with him always, everywhere;
And though her spirit long since had fled,
With him she lived! She was not dead!
Go tell it to the moaning seas—
Go tell it to the sighing trees—
Go tell it to the whistling winds—
Go tell it to the lords and hinds—
That love is life and life is love
And rule in earth and heaven above!

Ralph Bondly built his castles high
Upon his life's new mystery;
What time or heart had he to waste
Upon his haughty Spanish grace!
And all the world for him became
A smaller sphere—in which one name,
One form, one voice, was all that made
His life of hope, of sun and shade.
The harshness of his nature fled
When love its radiance o'er him shed!

As lovers will, the lovers met,
For ne'er has law been found as yet
That could prevent two lovers true
From meeting to their vows renew.
Sometimes they met in solitude,
'Neath oaks which had through ages stood,
Where Nature reigned in solemn state,
Unruffled by man's love and hate.
Here, undisturbed, they conversed long
The forest sentinels among,
Or gazed into each other's eyes
And read, as in the open skies,
The secrets of the soul therein,
The secrets love alone can win.
He was so like a prince in all
That makes for royal rank—so tall,
So handsome, and so dignified,
He bore himself with such rare pride—
That in his presence she became
As hypnotized—held by the flame
That fills the soul with heavenly light
Or with the darkness of the night.
And happiness few mortals know,
Who love and trust the sun below,
Was hers in these brief interviews,
In twilight hours or morning dews;
For hers was faith to all else blind,
Save his o'er-mastering will and mind.

How oft we find, in woe and pain,
Our confidence reposed in vain!
The gameful trout, disporting free—
Nothing more joyous, sure, than he
In all the waters of the brook—
Thus finds himself on th' angler's hook!
Now darted he to catch the fly—
Now downward—upward—merrily—
Till danced the waters in ferment,
He was so gay, so confident!
But hooked, in seeking life, his own
He gave, his rashness to atone!
Through all of Nature runs a chord
That binds us to the common horde;
In all, the same great thread is found
Of love and hate, the world around.
They did not always coo and dream;
Sometimes the burden of their theme
Was full of weight, and sadness, too,
From which, alas! escape but few.
'And we shall always happy be,
'Forgetting in our joy,' said he
'The world beside, by it forgot
'Contented with our generous lot,
'Nor sigh for other, richer treasure,
'Joy stealing e'en from Sorrow's measure!
'Life is so sweet, when love divine
'Thrills all the soul with its rich wine;
'Each stool becomes a sacred shrine,
'And constant hearts more constant grow
'Each hour that they each other know!
'Yon glassy stream, meandering hence
'Through vale and brake, beneath the lens
'Of love, assumes, I say not why,
'A thousand shapes to charm the eye;
'This rose sends forth a wealth of sweet,
'As well the violets at our feet,
'A garden might exhale; the trees,
'Low murmuring in the gentle breeze,
'Are richer in their dress of green
'While shading me and thee, my queen;
'The landscape far more grandly rises
'Against the skies in sweet surprises,
'As softly o'er the world the sun
'Diffuses light and warmth, which run
'Through all of life, and it sustain,
'With the sweet moisture of the rain;
'The tuneful birds their songs now sing
'For us! How sweet their voices ring!
'The mocking bird leading the choir—
'Now clear, now low, now soft, now higher!
'How full of joy and glad delight
'His numbers echo in their flight,
'As if all seasons were his Spring
'In which the praise of God to sing!
'He puts all carking care to shame—
'Makes love and music seem the same!
'But louder, clearer, hear him sing,
'As if more joy he could us bring!
'His care-free life is one long psalm
'To Him who rules the storm and calm!
'So shall it be with me and thee
'In that wished time, so soon to be,
'When you in word and truth are mine,
'And I, no less, my love, am thine!
'We think not now of less than joy
'That time nor sorrow can destroy—
'A perfect state, when we are one!
'And have we not that state begun—
'Our love, so holy and so pure—
'It must forevermore endure!
'All heaven and earth upon us smile!
'Soon comes the hour. We pause awhile!'

So spake the lord of Ellerslee,
And, as he spoke, e'en so felt he,
Controlled by Passion's burning fires,
And swayed at will by fond desires.
Not so the maiden at his side
He hoped so soon to make his bride;
Her wits were sharper than the man's,
Who saw no flaws in all his plans;
And this, though strange, is often true,
When with the heart we have to do;
For man is prone in his survey
To sweep from Peru to Cathay—
Measuring mountains vast and sky
With swiftest movement of the eye,
And levelling barriers in his flight
By his volition's simple might!
For mad is almost always vain
And selfish to his object gain!
The woman treasures little joys
As children do their favorite toys,
And seldom looks beyond the sky
'Neath which her hopes and pleasures lie!
Young Nada plainly saw the wrath
Of Garcia flash across her path,
And heard his protest 'gainst the suit
Of him he styled 'the English brute!'
And vowing vengeance fierce and dread
Upon her young, defenceless head,
Should she persist in her mad course
'Gainst his commands and wish, perforce!
She knew his violent nature well
When he was under Passion's spell;
For she had seen his little form
Convulsed in Anger's mighty storm,
And all the vast estate, in fear,
Tremble, in awe, as he drew near;
Or thundered oaths that seemed to be
Bigger and uglier than was he—
For he would at no Beauty show
Have ta'en a seat in the front row!

Don Garcia was a ball of fire
When was aroused his Spanish ire,
For his, indeed, was martial blood
That came down to him from the Flood;
At least, that was his haughty boast,
Ere he became a living ghost,
Ere age and gout made him forget
He was a knight of Castile yet,
Or gave the fact but scanty thought,
Such as a proud Castilian ought—
For Spanish knights have always been
The proudest, vainest of all men!

Nada well knew her parent proud
Would rather see her in a shroud
Than joined in wedlock to the lord
'Gainst whom he longed to draw the sword.
No blessing on their vows would he
Pronounce, when long and merrily
The marriage bells to all should tell
That two were one and all was well!
So in the gladness of the hour
She felt his presence and his power,
Whose love, though masterful and great,
Was never stronger than his hate.
Ne'er blushless could she face again
The parent who ne'er caused her pain;
Whose life, indeed, was all her own,
In all its depth, and hers alone.
This made her sad. She loved him well,
How well, perchance, she could not tell;
She loved him with a daughter's pride,
Who loved but her in all earth wide!
From out the present there arose
A cloud, though small, like little woes,
That larger grew and larger still,
Till all the skies it seemed to fill,
As through the shadows glanced her eyes
Where the dread Future's secret lies.
And she possessed an ample share
Of amorous fire and courage rare
And hate as strong as gentleness—
She was a Garcia, nothing less!
Still, she could be, in hours serene,
As happy as a reigning queen,
Whose open heart and generous hand
Spread blessings through the grateful land.

'I love but thee, my noble lord!
'I love but thee!' she said. 'Thy word
'Is pleasant law always to me,
'And joy is mine to be with thee!
'And I have prayed my patron saint
'Our future life withal to paint
'As thou hast pictured it—all fair,
'All free from sorrow and from care,
'All full of love and fond devotion,
'Life's dearest and its sweetest portion—
'But I'm suspicion-haunted still,
'And constant fears my musings fill!
'I would no cloud hung o'er the way
'Our journey leads! O, loved one, pray
'That we may find my fears are vain,
'Our love be free from woe and pain!
'O, pray with me, no curse may fall
'Upon the lord of Bondly Hall!'

Oppressed by such distressing fears,
Her cheeks suffused with scalding tears,
Her tongue refused to further speak
The thoughts, it seemed, her heart would break!
So droops the plant a boy has bruised,
Seeking alone to be amused,
All thoughtless that the tender flower
To grieve and bleed and die has power!
Nada's two loves, by tempests tossed,
Made her to feel that all was lost.
Her life had been a summer dream,
As placid as a woodland stream,
With just a ripple here and there,
With just a little bit of care;
Her father's love was all she knew
Of love, and from that love she drew
The beauty and the queenly pride
That made her famous far and wide.
She had reposed in his strong love
Confidingly, as would a dove,
As free from care, as free from grief,
As the sweet dew-drop on the leaf.
Lord Bondly's presence in her life
Had filled her soul with constant strife.

When once we hasten from the past
And rush into the future's blast;
When once the beaten path we shun
And into unknown by-paths run;
When once we leave the home port far
And confide in the Sailor's Star,
The pathless seas to brave and roam,
We may come back again to home!
'We may!' 'We may!' many have sighed,
Hoping, but lost their way and died!
The wreckage, bleaching in the sand,
May still be found in every land!

A passing sigh, a vain regret,
A clinging hope that lingered yet,
Was all she to the past could give—
The past in which she longed to live!
The present held her captive still,
Obedient to a master will—
A will so strong she could no more
Resist its power than she could soar
To castles in the ambient air—
If there should be such castles there.

'I go!' she said, 'but we shall meet
'Again and soon, when I can greet
'Thee in a happier, cheerfuller mood,
'But now my heart is sore and sad
'Beneath this vast o'erhanging shade;
'Not that I love not this abode,
'Through which primeval mankind strode;
'I love it, and I love thee well!
'Joy of my life, farewell! Farewell!'

Such power has love—a potion dread
That kills or cures the heart and head!
Filling the soul with glorious light
Or darkness of the fearsome night!
It lifts to heaven's fruition fair,
Or dashes down to hell's despair!
It leads through valleys where the blooms
Are ripening for the mills and looms,
By streams that oaks and cedars shade,
While wildly rushing through the glade!
It toils o'er rugged mountains steep,
Where snows in wakeless slumber sleep!

Alone, the strong man sat upon
A monarch of the woods, moss-grown,
Whose form a lightning bolt had split
And splintered as a boy would slit
A leaf, and doubt entered his mind,
Responsive to the questioning wind.
Suppose this dream should fade away,
As night engulfs the brightest day,
And leave a haunting memory—
Could such calamity e'er be?
Suppose Nada should vanish now,
Despite the beauty of her vow,
As she had come, from out his life—
What then? Grim Death! He drew a knife
From out its sheath—a dagger keen
And sharp as razor e'er had been,
With golden hilt, and o'er and o'er
Turned it, and felt the edge it bore,
With the deliberate calm and care
Which make the timid quake with fear.
'If she be false, thou wilt be true!'
Drawing the blade his fingers through.
'If she be false, thou wilt be true!
'And thou hast served me well; thou art
'My friend, cold blade! Close to my heart
'I hold thee! And, while I so hold
'Thee—sharp, keen, pitiless and cold—
'The antidote is surely mine,
'And safer, deadlier, than is wine,
''Gainst treachery and the agony
'That woman's fickleness for ay
'Provokes! For what is life to me,
'With this love dead, but misery,
'But Death! Aye, what! Then you,
'If she be false, will still be true!'

And then his head drooped on his breast;
His limbs relaxed; his eyes expressed
Nothing—vacant—blank! O'er him fell
The potence of the old-time spell!
So blasted was the noble tree,
In lightning's rage, on which sat he.

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