Caroline Sheridan Norton.

The lady of La Garaye online

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Presswork by John Wilson and Son,
University Press.




erfji's Eittle Poem



Feiend of old days, of suffering, stonn, and strife,
Patient and kind through many a wild appeal ;

In the arena of thy brilliant life
Never too busy or too cold to feel :

Companion from whose ever-teeming store
Of thought and knowledge, happy memory brings

So much of social wit and sage's lore,
Garnered and gleaned by me as precious things :

Kinsman of him whose very name soon grew
Unreal as music heard in pleasant dreams.

So vain the hope my girlish fancy di'ew.
So faint and far his vanished presence seems :

To thee I dedicate this record brief
Of foreign scenes and deeds too little known;

t> DeHuatioiu

This talo of noble souls wlio conquered grief
By dint of tending sufferings not their own.

Thou hast Imown all my life : its pleasant hours,
(How many of them have I owed to thee !)

Its exercise of intellectual powers,
With thoughts of fame and gladness not to be.

Thou knowest how Death forever dogged my way,
And how of those I loved the best, and those

Who loved and pitied me in life's young day,
Narrow, and narrower still, the circle grows.

Thou knowest — ^for thou hast proved — the dreary

A first-born's loss casts over lonely days ;
And gone is now the pale fond smile, that made

In my dim futm-e, yet, a path of rays.

Gone, the dear comfort of a voice whose soimd
Came like a beacon-bell, heard clear above

The whirl of violent waters surging round ;
Speaking to shipwrecked ears of help and love.

©tUtcation. 7

The joy that budded on my own youth's bloom,
"When life wore still a glory and a gloss,

Is hidden from me in the silent tomb ;
Smiting with premature unnatural loss,

So that my very soul is wrung with pain.
Meeting old friends whom most I love to see.

Where are the younger lives, since these remain ?
I weep the eyes that should have wept for me 1

But all the more I cling to those who speak,
Like thee, in tones unaltered by my change ;

Greeting my saddened glance, and faded cheek.
With the same welcome that seemed sweet and

In early days : when I, of gifts made proud,
That could the notice of such men beguile,

Stood listening to thee in some brilliant crowd,
With the warm triumph of a youthful smile.

Oh ! little now remains of all that was !
Even for this gift of linking measured words,

8 DeHuatuin.

My heart oft questions, witli discouraged pause ,
Does music linger in the slackening chords ?

Yet, fideud, I feel not that all power is fled,
While offering to thee, for the kindly years,

The intangible gift of thought, whose silver thread
Heaven keeps untarnished by our bitterest tears.

So, in the brooding calm that follows woe.
This tale of La Gaeate I fain would tell, —

As, when some earthly storm hath ceased to blow,
And the huge mounting sea hath ceased to swell ;

After the maddening wrecking and the roar.
The wild high dash, the moaning sad retreat.

Some cold slow wave creeps faintly to the shore,
And leaves a white shell at the gazer's feet.

Take, then, the poor gift in thy faithful hand;

Measure its worth not merely hy my own.
But hold it dear as gathered from the sand

Where so mucli wreck of youth and hope lies

2?eliitatton. S

So, if in years to come my words abide —

Words of the dead to stir some living brain —

When thoughtfal readers lay my book aside,
Mnsing on all it tells of joy and pain,

Towards thee, good heart, towards thee theii
thoughts shall roam.
Whose unforsaking faith time hath not riven ;
And to their minds this jast award shall come,
'Twas a teue friend to whom such thanks were
given I


It is pleasant to me to be able to assure my
readers that the story I have undertaken to versify
is in no respect a fiction. I have added noth-
ing to the beautiful and striking simplicity of the
events it details. I have respected that mournful
"romance of real life" too much to spoil its lessons
by any poetical licence. Nothing is mine in this
story but the language in which it is told. The por-
trait of the Countess de la Garaye is copied fi-om
an authentic picture preserved in one ot the re-
ligious houses of Dinan, in Brittany, where the
Hospital of Incurables, founded by her and her
husband, still subsists. The ruined chateau and its
ivy-covered gateway are faithfully given, without
embellishment or alteration, as they appeared
when I saw them in the year 1860. The chateau
is rapidly crimabling. The memory of the Do la
Garayes is fresh in the memory of the people.

1 2 3rn^oinf tton.

They died witLin two years of eacli other, and
were buried among their poor in the district of
Taden ; having, both during their lives and by vill
after death, contributed the greater part of their
fortune to the wisest and most carefully conducted
charities. Among the bequests left by the Count
de la Garaye, was one especially interesting to this
country ; for he left a large sum to the prisoners of
Eennes and Dinan, consisting principally of English
oflBcers and soldiers, who were suffering in these
crowded foreign jails aU the horrors which the
philanthropic Howard endeavored to reform in his
own land ; and which at one time caused a sort of
plague to break out in Dinan. This humane be-
quest is the more remarkable, as the Count was, in
spite of the gentleness and generosity of his feel-
ings towards imprisoned foes, patriotic enough to
insist on marching to oppose the landing of tlie
English on the coast of Trance in 1740, though he
was then upwards of seventy years of age !

He was of noble family, being the younger son
of Guillauine Marot, Count de la Garaye, Governor
of the town and castle of Dinan ; — ^that strong
fortress which Anne of Brittany, in her threatened

3f ntroSttctioiu i ^

dominions, playfully termed the " key of her cas-
ket." By the death of his elder brother, he be-
came inheritor of the famil y honors, and married
Mademoiselle de la Motte-Piquet, niece of the
Chevalier de la Motte-Piquet, who so greatly dis-
tinguished himself in the American war. Olaude-
Tonssatnt, Count de la Garaye, was a man person-
ally attractive in appearance and manner, and
very dexterous ia fencing and feats of horseman-
ship. To the plaiative beauty of his wife's por-
trait I have scarcely been able to render justice,
even with the advantage of its being engraved by
Mr. Shaw.

Those who may desire to read the narrative in
plain prose, will find a notice of the Chateau de la
Garaye in the " Eecherches sur Dinan et ses Envi-
rons," by Luigi Odorici, Curator of the Museum of
that town, and in the travelling guide lately issued
by M. Peignet, both works published on the spot.
Allusion is also made to the story, or rather to the
beneficent works of charity performed by the De la
Garayes, in Madame de Genlis' "Adele et Theo-
dore ;" but inasmuch as she has totally altered the
real circumstances, and attributed these holy deeds

1 4 3f ntrolinctuin.

to the result of grief for the loss of a daughter,
even while admitting in a foot-note that she is
aware the Do la Garayes never had a chUd, and
that all is her own invention, I do not think it ne-
cessary further to aUude to her version of the tale ;
more striking in its unadorned truth than all the
art of the poet or romancist could make it.


lUINS ! A charm is in the word :
It makes us smile, it makes us sigh ;
'Tis like the note of some spring

Recalling other Springs gone by,
And other wood-notes which we heard
With some sweet face in some green lane,
And never can so hear again 1

Ruins 1 They were not desolate
To us, — the ruins we remember :
Early we came and lingered late,
Through bright July, or rich September;
With young companions wild with glee,
We feasted 'neath some spreading tree —

ifi (H'ht lalip of 1h (Bnvuve.

And looked into their laughing eyes.
And mocked the echo for replies.
Oh ! eyes — and smiles — and days of yore,
Can nothing your delight restore ?
Return !

Eeturn? In vain we listen ;
Those voices have been lost to earth !
Our hearts may throb — our eyes may glisten,
They'll call no more in love or mirth.
For, like a child sent out to play,
Our youth hath had its holiday,
And silence deepens where we stand
Lone as in some foreign land,
Wbere our language is not spoken,
And none know our hearts are broken.

Ruins ! How we loved them then 1
How we loved the haunted glen
Which gray towers overlook,
Mirrored in the glassy brook !
How we dreamed, — and how we guessed,
Looking up, with earnest glances,
"Where the black crow buLIt its nest,

C^e laBp of la (Sarape. 17

And we built our wild romances ;
Tracing in the crumbled dweULng
Bygone tales of no one's telling I

This was the Chapel: that the stair.
Here, where all lies damp and bare,
The fragrant thurible was swung,
T]»e silver lamp in beauty hung,
And in that mass of ivied shade
The pale nuns sang — the abbot prayed.

This was the Kitchen. Cold and blank

The huge hearth yawns ; and wide and high,

The chimney shows the open sky ;

There daylight peeps through many a crank

"Where birds immund find shelter dank,

And when the moonlight shineth through.

Echoes the wild tu-whit to-whoo

Of mournful owls, whose languid flight

Scarce stirs the silence of the night.

This is the Courtyard, — damp and drear I

The men-at-arms were mustered here ;

m QTbe LaUp of La ®arape.

Here would the fretted war-horse bound,
Starting to hear the trumpet sound;
And captains, then of wai-like fame,
Clanked and glittered as they came.
Forgotten names ! forgotten wars I
Forgotten gallantry and scars 1
How is your little busy day
Perished and crushed and swept away 1

Here is the Lady's Chamber, whence
"With looks of lovely innocence
Some heroine om* fancy dresses
In golden locks or raven tresses,
And pearl embroidered silks and stuffi,
And quaintly quilted sleeves and ruffs,
Looked forth to see retainers go,
Or trembled at the assaulting foe.

This was the Dimgeon ; deep and dai'k I
"Where the starved prisoner moaned in vain
Until Death left him stiff and stark,
Unconscious of the galling chain
By which the thin, bleechcd bones were bound
When chance revealed them under ground.

(iri)e Latp of La (0arape. 19

Oh I Time, oh. 1 ever-conquering Time 1

These men had once their prime :

But now, succeeding generations hear

Beneath the shadow of each crumbling arch

The music low and drear.

The muflBed music of thy onward march,

Made up of piping winds and rustling leaves

And plashing raiu-di'ops falling from slant eaves,

And all mysterious unconnected sounds

With which the place abounds.

Time doth efface

Each day some lingering trace

Of human government and human care :

The things of air

And earth, usurp the walls to be their own ;

Creatures that dweU alone,

Occupy boldly : every mouldering nook

Wherein we peer and look.

Seems with wild denizens so swarming rife,

We know the healthy stir of human life

Must be forever gone I

The walls where hung the warriors shining casques

Are green with moss and mould ;

20 (K\)t latjp of la ^arape.

The blind worm coils where Queens have slept, nor

For shelter from the cold.
The swallow, — ^he is master all the day.
And the great owl is ruler through the night ;
The little bat wheels on his circling way
With restless flittering flight ;
And that small black bat, and the creeping things,
At will they come and go,
And the soft, white owl with velvet wing3
And a shriek of human woe I
The brambles let no footstep pass
By that rent in the broken stair.
Where the pale tufts of the windle-strae grass
Hang like locks of dry dead hair ;
But there the keen wind ever weeps and moans,
Working a passage through the mouldering stones.

Oh ! Time, oh 1 conquering Time 1

I know that wild viand's chime

Which, like a passing-beU,

Or distant kneU,

Speaks to man's heart of Death and of Decay ;

er^e labp of la ©arape. 21

While thy step passes o'er the necks of Kings
And over common things, —
And into Earth's green orchards making way,
Halts, where the fruits of human hope abound,
And shakes their trembling ripeness to the ground

But hark — a sudden shout

Of laughter ! and a nimble giddy rout,

Who know not yet what saddened hours may meani

Come dancing through the scene 1

Ruins 1 Ruins 1 let us roam

Through what was a human home.

"What care we

How deep its depths of darkness be ?

Follow 1 Follow !

Down the hollow

Through the bramble-fencing thorns

Where the white snail hides her horns .;

Leap across the dreadful gap

To that corner's mossy lap, —

Do, and dare !

Clamber up the crumbling stair ;

22 (J[\it LaUp of la 0arape

Trip along the narrow wall,

Where the sudden rattling fall

Of loosened stones, on winter nights,

In his dreams the peasant frights :

And push them, till their rolling sound.

Dull and heavy, beat the ground.

Now a song, high up and clear,

Like a lark's enchants the ear ;

Or some liappy face looks down,

Looking, oh ! so fresh and fair.

Wearing youth's most glorious orown,

One rich braid of golden hair :

Or two hearts that wildly beat,

And two pair of eager feet.

Linger in the turret's bend

As they side by side ascend.

For the momentary bliss

Of a lover's stolen kiss ;

And emerge into the shining

Of that summer day's declining,

Disengaging clasping hands

As they meet their comrade bands;

(S^t laUp of la (^arape. 23

With the smUe that lately hovered,
(Making lips and eyes so bright,)
And the blush which darkness covered
Mantling still in rosy light!

Ruins! Ohl ye have youi- charm;
Death is cold, but life is wai-m ;
And the fervent days we knew
Ere our hopes grew faint and few,
Claim even now a happy sigh,
Thinking of those hours gone by :
Of the wooing long since passed,- —
Of the love that still shall last, —
Of the wooing and the winning ,
Brightest end to bright beginning ;
When the feet we sought to guide
Tripped so lightly by our side,
That, as swift they made their way
Through the path and tangled brake,
Safely we could swear and say
"We loved all ruins for their sake!
Gentle hearts, one ruin more
From amongFt so many score —

24 Qilft taOv of la 0arape.

One, from out a host of names,
To your notice puts fortli claims.
Come ! with me make holiday,
hi the -woods of La Garaye,
Sit within those tangled bowers,
"Where fleet by the silent hours,
Only broken by a song
From the chirping woodland throng.
Listen to the tale I tell :
Grave the story is — ^not sad ;
And the peasant plodding by
Greets the place with kindly eye
For the inmates that it had !

^Ut pay df p (Sataye.


N Dinan's walls the morning sunlight

Gilds the stern fortress with a crown

of rays,

Shines on the childi-en's heads that
troop to school,
Tnrns into beryl-brown the forest pool,
Sends diamond spai'kles over gushing springs,
And showers down glory on the simplest things.
And many a young seigneur and damsel bold
See with delight those beams of reddening gold,
For they are bid to join the hunt to-day
By Claud Marot, the lord of La Garaye ;
And merry is it in his spacious halls ;

86 QJ^t LaUp of JU (3arape.

CJheerfu] the host, whatever sport befalls,

Cheerful and courteous, full of manly grace,

His heart's frank welcome written in his face ;

So eager, that his pleasure never cloys,

But glad to share whatever he enjoys;

Rich, liberal, gayly dressed, of noble mien,

Clear eyes, — full curving mouth, — and brow serene j

Master of speech in many a foreign tongue,

And famed for feats of arms, although so young ;

Dexterous in fencing, skilled in horsemanship —

His voice and hand preferred to spur or whip ;

Quick at a jest and smiling repartee.

With a sweet laugh that sounded frank and fi'ee,

But holding Satire an accursed thing,

A poisoned javelin or a serpent's sting ;

Pitiful to the poor ; of courage high ;

A soul that could all turns of fate defy:

Gentle to women : reverent to old age :

What more, young Claud, could men's esteem

What more be given to bless thine earthly state.
Save Love, which stUl must crown the happiest fate 1
Love, therefore, came. That sunbeam lit his life.

Ctt LaUp of La 0arape. 27

And -where he wooed, he won, a gentle wife,
Born, like himself, of lineage brave and good
And like himself, of warm and eager mood ;
Glad to share gladness, pleasure to impart,
"With dancing spirits and a tender heart.
Pleased too to shai-e the manlier sports which made
The joy of his yomig hours. No more afraid
Of danger, than the seabird, used to soar
From the high rocks above the ocean's roar.
Which dips its slant wing in the wave's white crestj
And deems the foamy undulations, rest.

Nor think the feminine beanty of her soid

Tarnished by yielding to such joy's control;

Nor that the form which, like a flexile reed,

Swayed with the movements of her bonnduig steed.

Took from those graceful hours a rougher force,

Or left her natm'e masculine and coarse.

She was not bold from boldness, but from love ;

Bold from gay frolic ; glad with him to rove

In danger or in safety, weal or woe.

And where he ventured, still she yeai-ned to go.

Bold with the courage of his bolder life.

28 C()c latip of La (??ara?e.

At home a tender and submissive wife;
Abroad, a woman, modest, — aye, and proud ;
Xot seeking liomage from the casual crowd.
She remained pure, that darling of his sight,
In spite of boyish feats, and rash delight ;
Still the eyes fell before an insolent look,
Or flashed their bright and innocent rebuke ;
Still the cheek kept its delicate youthful bloom,
And the blush reddened through the snow-white

He that had seen her, with her courage high,
First in the chase where all dashed rapid by,
He that had watched her bright impetuous look
When she prepared to leap the silver brook, —
Fair in her Spring-time as a branch of May ;
Had felt the dull sneer feebly die away,
And unused kindly smiles upon his cold lips play 1

God made all pleasures innocent; but man
Turns them to shame, since first our earth began
To shudder 'neath the stroke of delving tools,
"When Eve and Adam lost — poor tempted fools —

erije latjp of la (Sarape. 29

The sweet safe shelter of tlieir Eden bowers,
Its easy wealth of sun-ripe fruits and flowers,
For some forbidden zest that was not given,
Some riotous hope to make a mimic Heaven,
And sank, — from being wingless angels, — low
Into the depths of mean and abject woe.

Why should the sweet elastic sense of joy
Presage a fault? Why should the pleasm-e cloy,
Or turn to blame, which Heaven itself inspires,
Who gave us health and strength and all desires ?
The children play, and sin not ; — let the young
Still carol songs, as others too have sung ;
Still urge the fiery courser o'er the plain,
Proud of his glossy sides and flowing mane ;
Still, when they meet in careless hours of mirth,
Laugh, as if Sorrow were unknown to earth ;
Prattling sweet nothings, which, like buds of flowers.
May turn to earnest thoughts and vigilant hours.
What boys can suffer, and weak women dare,
Let Indian and Crimean wastes declare :
Perchance in that gay group of laughters stand
Guides and defenders for our native laud; —

80 Cfte laUp of La (Bat&yt.

F0II7 it is to see a wit in woe,

And liold youtli sinful for the spirits' flow.

As through the meadow-lands clear rivers run,

Blue in the shadow — sUver in the sun —

TiU, rolling by some pestilential source,

Some factory work whose wheels with horrid force

Strike the pure waters with their dripping beams.

Send poison gushing to the crystal streams,

And leave the innocent things to whom God gave

A natural home in that translucent wave

Gasping strange death, and floating down to show

The evil working in the depths below, —

So man can poison pleasure at its source ;

Clog the swift sparkle of its rapid com-se,

Mis muddy morbid thoughts in vicious strife,

Till to the surface floats the death of life; —

But not the less the stream itself was pure —

And not the less may blameless joy endure.

Careless, — but not impure, — the joyous days
Passed in a rapturous whirl ; a giddy maze,
Where the young Count and lovely Countess di*ew
A, new delight from every pleasure new.

Crjif la^ of La ©arape. 81

They woke to gladness as the morning broke ;

Their very voices kept, whene'er tliey spoke,

A ring of joy, a harmony of life,

That made you bless the husband and the wife.

And every day the careless festal throng.

And every night the dance and feast and song,

Shared with young boon companions, marked the

As with a carillon's exulting chune;
Where those two entered, gloom passed out of eight,
Chased by the glow of their intense delight.

So, till the day when over Dinan's walls
The Autumn sunshine of my story falls;
And the guests bidden, gather for tlie chase,
And the smile brightens on the lovely face
That greets them in succession as they come
Into that high and hospitable home.

Like a sweet picture doth the Lady stand,
Still blushing as she bows ; one tiny band,
Hid by a pearl-embroidered gauntlet, holds
Ear whip, and her long robe's exuberant folds.

32 QTbe laUp of La 0arape.

The other hand is bare, and from her eyes
Shades now and tlien the sun, or softly lies,
With a caressing touch, upon the neck
Of the dear glossy steed she loves to deck
With saddle-housings worked in golden thread,
And golden bands upon his noble head.
White is the little hand whose taper fingers
Smooth his fine coat, — and still the lady lingers.
Leaning against his side ; nor lifts her head,
But gently turns as gathering footsteps tread ;
Reminding you of doves with shifting throats,
Brooding in sunshine by their sheltering cotes.
Under her plumed hat her wealth of curls
Falls down in golden links among her pearls,
And the rich purple of her velvet vest
Slims the young waist, and rounds the graceful

So, till the latest joins the happy Meet ;
Then springs she gladly to her eager feet ;
And, while the white hand from her courser's side
Slips like a snow-flake, — stands prepared to ride.
Then lightly vaulting to her seat, she seems

d)e Latip of 1b (^arape. 33

Queen of some fair possession seen in dreams ;
Queen of herself, and of the world ; sweet Queen !
Her crown the plume above her brow serene,
Her jewelled whip a sceptre, and her dress
The regal mantle worn by loveliness.

And well she wears such mantle : swift her horse,

But firm her seat throughout the rapid course ;

No rash unsteadiness, no shifting pose

Disturbs that line of beauty as she goes :

She wears her robe as some fair sloop her sails,

Wliich swell and flutter to the rising gales,

But never from the cordage taut and trim

Slacken or swerve away. The evening dim

Sees her return, unwearied and unbent,

The fair folds falling smooth as when she went ;

The little foot no clasping buckle keeps,

She frees it, and to earth untrammelled leaps.

Alas! look well upon that picture fair!
The face — the form — ^the smile — the golden hair ;
The agile beauty of each movement made, —
The loving softness of her eyes' sweet shade,

84 (E^t latip of La Oarape,

The bloom and pliant grace of youtliful days,
The gladness and the glory of her gaze.
If we knew when the last time was the last,
Visions so dear to straining eyes went past ;
If we knew when the horror and the gloom
Should overcast the pride of beauty's bloom;
If we knew when affection nursed in vain
Sliould grow to be but bitterness and pain ;
It were a curse to blight all living hours
With a hot dust, like dark volcano showers.
Give thanks to God who blinded us with Hope ;
Denied man skill to draw his horoscope ;
And, to keep mortals of the present fond,
Forbid the keenest sight to pierce beyond 1

Falsehood from those we trusted ; cruel sneers
From those whose voice was music to our ears ;
Lonely old age ; oppressed and orplianed youth ;

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Online LibraryCaroline Sheridan NortonThe lady of La Garaye → online text (page 1 of 4)