The Daughter Of Plantagenet - Fytte The Seconde

ROMARA'S skiff is on the Trent,
And the stream is in its strength,—
For a surge, from its ocean-fountain sent,
Pervades its giant length:
Roars the hoarse heygre in its course,
Lashing the banks with its wrathful force;
And dolefully echoes the wild-fowl's scream,
As the sallows are swept by the whelming stream
And her callow young are hurled for a meal,
To the gorge of the barbel, the pike, and the eel:
The porpoise heaves 'mid the rolling tide,
And, snorting in mirth, doth merrily ride,—
For he hath forsaken his bed in the sea,
To sup on the salmon, right daintily!

In Romara's breast a tempest raves:
He heeds not the rage of the furrowy waves:
Supremely his hopes and fears are set
On the image of Agnes Plantagenet:
And though from his vision fade Gainsburgh's towers,
And the moon is beclouded, and darkness lours
Yet the eye of his passion oft pierceth the gloom,
And beholds his Beloved in her virgin bloom—
Kneeling before the holy Rood,—
All clasped her hands,—
Beseeching the saints and angels good
That their watchful bands
Her knight may preserve from a watery tomb!

What deathful scream rends Romara's heart?—
Is it the bittern that, flapping the air,
Doth shriek in madness, and downward dart,
As if from the bosom of Death she would tear
Her perished brood,—or a shroud would have
By their side, in the depths of their river-grave?

Hark! hark! again!—'tis a human cry,
Like the shriek of a man about to die!
And its desolateness doth fearfully pierce
The billowy boom of the torrent fierce;
And, swift as a thought
Glides the warrior's boat
Through the foaming surge to the river's bank,
Where, lo!—by a branch of the osiers dank,
Clingeth one in agony
Uttering that doleful cry;

His silvery head of age upborne
Appeared above the wave;
So nearly was his strength outworn,
That all too late to save
Had been the knight, if another billow
Its force on his fainting frame had bent,—
Nay, his feeble grasp by the drooping willow
The beat of a pulse might have fatally spent.

With eager pounce did Romara take
From the yawning wave its prey,—
But nought to his deliverer spake
The man with the head of gray:
And the warrior stripped, with needful haste,
The helpless one of his drenched vest,
And wrapt his own warm mantle round
The chill one in his deathly swound.

The sea-born strength of the stream is spent,
And Romara's boat outstrips its speed,—
For his stalwart arm to the oar is bent,
And swiftly the ebbing waves recede.

Divinely streaketh the morning-star
With a wavy light the rippling waters;
And the moon looks on from the west, afar,
And palely smiles, with her waning daughters,
The thin-strown stars, which their vigil keep
Till the orient sun shall awake from sleep.

The sun hath awoke: and in garments of gold
The turrets of Torksey are livingly rolled;
Afar, on Trent's margin, the flowery lea
Exhales her dewy fragrancy;
And gaily carols the matin lark,
As the warrior hastes to moor his bark.

Two menials hasten to the beach,
For signal none need they;
On the towers they kept a heedful watch
As the skiff glode on its way:

With silent step and breathless care
The rescued one they softly bear,
And bring him, at their lord's behest,
To a couch of silken pillowed rest.

The serfs could scarce avert their eye
From his manly form and mien,
As, with closed lids, all reverendly,
He lay in peace, serene.

And Romara thought, as he gazing leant
O'er the slumberer's form, that so pure a trace
Of the spirit of Heaven with the earthly blent
Dwelt only there, and in Agnes' face.

The leech comes forth at the hour of noon,
And saith, that the sick from his deathly swoon
Will awake anon; and Romara's eye,
Uplift, betokens his heartfelt joy;
And again o'er the slumberer's couch he bows
Till, slowly, those peaceful lids unclose,—
When, long, with heavenward-fixèd gaze,
With lowly prayer and grateful praise,
The aged man, from death reprieved,
His bosom of its joy relieved.—

Then did Romara thus address
His gray guest in his reverendness:

'Now, man of prayer, come tell to me
'Some spell of thy holy mystery!
'Some vision hast had of the Virgin bright,—
'Or message, conveyed from the world of light,
'By the angels of love who in purity stand
''Fore the throne of our Lord in the heavenly land?

'I hope, when I die, to see them there;
'For I love the angels so holy and fair:
'And often, I trust, my prayer they, greet
'With smiles, when I kneel and kiss their feet
'In the missal, my mother her weeping child gave
'But a day or two ere she was laid in the grave.

'Sage man of prayer, come tell to me
'What holy shapes in sleep they see
'Who love the blest saints and serve them well!
'I pray thee, sage man, to Romara tell,
'For a guerdon, thy dreams,—sith, to me thou hast said
'No thanks that I rescued thy soul from the dead.'

But, when the aged man arose
And met Romara's wistful eye,—
What accents shall the change disclose
That marked his visage, fearfully?—
From joy to grief and deepest dole;
From radiant hope to dark presage
Of future ills beyond control—
Hath passed the visage of the sage.

'Son of an honoured line, I grieve;'
Outspake the reverend seer,
'That I no guerdon thee can give
'But words of woe and fear!—
'Thy sun is setting!—and thy race,
'In thee, their goodly heir,
'Shall perish, nor a feeble trace
'Their fated name declare!—
'Thy love is fatal: fatal, too,
'This act of rescue brave—
'For, him who from destruction drew
'My life, no arm can save!'

He said,—and took his lonely way
Far from Romara's towers.—
His fateful end from that sad day
O'er Torksey's chieftain lowers:
Yet, vainly, in his heart a shrine
Hope builds for love—with faith;—
Alas! for him with frown malign
Waiteth the grim king Death!