Edward Bulwer Lytton Lytton.

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In the old days recalled her ; such sweet charms

Did Comfort weave, that in the sister's breast

Grief like an infant sobb'd itself to rest.


Up leapt the solemn priests from dull repose :
The fires were fann'd as with a sudden wind ;

While shrieking loud, " Hark, hark, the conquering foes !
Haste, haste, the victim to the altar bind !"

Rush'd to the shrine the haggard Slaughter-Chief. —

As the strong gusts that vv hirl the fallen leaf



r the month when wolves descend, the barharous hands
Plunge on the prey of their deUrious wrath,

Wrench'd from Genevra's clasp ; — Lo, where she stands,
On earth no anchor, — is she less like Faith ?

The same smile firmly sad, the same calm eye,

The same meek strength ; — strength to forgive and die !


'^ Hear us, Odin, in this last despair !

Hear us, and save !" the Pontifi:' call'd aloud ;
" By the Child's blood we shed, thy children spare !"

And the knife glitter'd o'er the breast that bow'd.
Dropp'd blade ; — fell priest ! — blood chokes a gurgling

groan ;
Blood, — blood not Gliristian^ dyes the altar stone !


Deep in the doomer's breast it sank — the dart ;

As if from Fate it came invisibly ;
Where is the hand ? — from what dark hush shall start

Foeman or fiend ? — no shape appalls the eye.
No sound the ear ; — ice-lock'd each coward breath ;
The Power the Deathsmen call'd, hath heard them —
Death !


While yet the stupor stuns the circle there.

Fierce shrieks— loud feet— come rushing thro' the doors;

Women with outstretch'd arms and tossing hair,
And flying warriors, shake the solemn floors ;

Thick as the birds storm-driven on the decks

Of some lone ship — the last an ocean wrecks.



And where on tumult, tumult whirl'd and roar'd,
Shrill'd cries, " The fires around us and behind,

And the last Fire-God, and the Flaming Sword !"*
And from witliout, like that destroying wind

In which the world shall perish, grides and sweeps

Victory — swift-cleaving thro' the battle deeps ! —


Victory, by shouts of terrible rapture known.
Thro' crashing ranl^s it drives in iron rain ;

Borne on the wings of fire it blazes on ;
It halts its storm before the fortress fane ;

And thro' the doors, and thro' the chinks of pine.

Flames its red breath upon the paling shrine.

Eoused to their demon courage by the dread

Of the wild hour, the priests a voice have found ;
To pious horror show their sacred dead.

Invoke the vengeance, and explore the ground ;
When, like the fiend in monkish legends known.
Sprang a grim image on the altar stone !


The w^olf's hide bristled on the shaggy breast,

Over the brows, the forest buffalo
With horn impending arm'd the grisly crest.

From which the swart eye sent its savage glow.
Long shall the Saxon dreams that shape recall,
And ghastly legends teem wdth tales of Faul if

* "And the last Fire-God and the Flaming Sword," i. e , Surtur the genius, who
dwells in the region of fire (Muspelheini), wliose flaming sword shall vanquish the
gods themselves in tlie last day. (Pkosk Euda.)

J- Faul is indeed the name of one of the malignant Powers peculiarly dreaded



Needs liere to tell, that when, at Merlin's liest,
Faul led to Harold's tent the Saxon maid,

The wrathful Thane had chased the skulking priest,
From the paled ranks, that evil Bode'-' dismay'd : —

And the grim tidings of the rite to come

Flew lip to lip thro' that awed Heathendom.


Foretaught by Merlin of her mission there.
Scarce to her father's heart Genevra sprung

Than (while most soften'd) her impassioned prayer
Pierced to its human deeps; and, roused and stung

By that keen pit}^, keenest in the brave, —

Strength felt why strength is given, and rush'd to save.


Amidst those quick emotions, half forgot,

Followed the tutored furtive Aleman ;
On, when the portals crash'd, still heeded not.

Stole his light step behind the striding Thane.
From coign to shaft the practised glider crept,
A shadow, lost Avhere shadoAvs darkest slept.


And safe and screened the idol god behind,

He who once lurked to slay, kept watch to save : —

Now there he stood ! And the same altar shrined
The wild man, the wild god ! and up the nave

Flight flowed on flight ; and near and loud, the name

Of ' Arthur' borne as on a whirlwind came.

by the Saxons, — a name that I cannot discover to have been known to other
branches of the Gre it Teuton Family.
• Bode, Saxon word for messenger.



Down from tlie altar to the victim's side,

While yet shrunk back the priests — the savage leapt^
And with quick steel gash'd the strong cords that tied ;

When round them both the rallying vengeance swept ;
Raised every arm ; — joy ! — the enchanted glaive
Shines o'er the threshold ! is there time to save ?


Whirls thro' the air a torch, — it flies — it falls ^

Into the centre of the murderous throng!

Dread herald of dread steps ! the conscious halls
Quake where the falchion flames and fleets along ;

Tho' crowd on crowd behold the falchion cleave ! —

The Silver Shield rests over Genevieve !


Bright as the shape that smote the Assyrian,
The fulgent splendor from the arms divine

Paled the hell fires round God's elected Man,
And burst like Truth upon the demon-shrine.

Among the thousands stood the Conquering One,

Still, lone, and unresisted as a sun !


Now thro' the doors, commingling side by side,
Saxon and Cymrian struggle hand in hand ;

For there the war, in its fast ebbing tide,

Flings its last prey — there, Crida takes his stand ;

There his co-monarchs hail a funeral pyre

That opes Walhalla from the grave of fire.



And as a tiger swept aclown a flood

With meaner beasts, that dyes the howling water
Which whirls it onward, wdth a waste of blood ;

And gripes a stay with fangs that leave the slaughter.
So where halts Crida, groans and falls a foe —
And deep in gore his steps receding go.


And his large sword has made in reeking air

Broad space (thro' which, around the golden ring

That crownlike clasps the sweep of his gray hair).
Shine the tatl helms of many a Teuton king.

Lord of the West — broad-breasted Chevaline ;

And Ymrick's son of Hengist's giant line;


Fierce Sibert, throned by Britain's kinghest river,
And Elrid, honoured in Northumbrian homes ;

And many a sire whose stubborn soul for ever

Shadows the fields where England's thunder comes.

High o'er them all his front gray Crida rears.

As some old oak whose crest a forest clears.


High o'er them all, that front fierce Arthur sees,
And knows the arch invader of the land.

Swift thro' the chiefs — swift path his falchion frees;
Corpse falls on corpse before the avenger s hand :

For fair-hair'd, J^lla, Cantia's maids shall wail,

Hurl'd o'er the dead, rings Elrid's crashing mail ;
VOL. n. 15



His follower's arms stunn'd Sibert's might receive,
And from the sure death snatch their bleeding lord ;

And now behold, fearful Genevieve,

O'er thy doom'd father shines the charmed sword !

And shaking, as it shone, the glorious blade,

The hand for very wrath the death delay'd.


" At last, at last we meet, on Cymri's soil ;

And foot to foot ! Destroyer of my shrines,
And murderer of my people ! Ay, recoil

Before the doom thy quailing soul divines !
Ay — turn thine eyes, — nor hosts nor flight can save !
Thy foe is Arthur — and these halls thy grave !"


^'Flight," laughed the king, whose glance had wandered

Where thro' the throng had pierced a woman's cry,
" Flight for a chief, by Saxon warriors crown'd,

And from a Walloon ! — this is my reply !"
And, both hands heaving up the sword enorme.
Swept the swift orbit round the luminous form ;


Full on the gem the iron drives its course.

And shattering clinks in splinters on the floor ;

The foot unsteadied by tlie blow's spent force.
Slides on the smoothness of the soil of gore ;

Gore, quench the blood-thirst ! guard, soil, the guest !

For Freedom's heel is on the Invader's breast !




When, swift beneath the flasliing of the bhide.
When, swift before the bosom of the foe,

She sprang, she came, she knelt, — the guardian maid !
And, starthng vengeance from the righteous blow,

Cried, " Spare, Oh spare, this sacred life to me,

A father's life I — I would have died for thee !"


While thus within, the Christian God prevails,

Without the idol temple, fast and far.
Like rolling storm-wrecks, shattered by the gales,

Fly the dark fragments of the Heathen War,
Where, thro' the fires that flash from camp to wave,
Escape the land that locks them in its grave ?


When by the Hecla of their burning fleet
Dismay'd amidst the marts of Carduel,

The Saxons rush'd without the walls to meet

The Viking's swords, which their mad terrors swell

Into a host — assaulted, rear and van.

Scarce smote the foe before the flight began.


In vain were Harold's voice, and name, and deeds.
Unnerved by omen, priest, and shapeless fear.

And less by man than their own barbarous creeds
Appall'd, — a God in every shout they hear,

And in their blazinsc barks behokl unfurl'd,

The wings of Muspell* to consume the world.

* Muspell, Fire ; Muspelheim, the region of Fire, the final destroyer.



Yet still awhile the heart of the great Thane,
And the stout few that gird the gonfanon,

Build a steel bulwark on the midmost plain,
That stem^ all Cjmri, — so Despair fights on.

When from the camp the new volcanoes spring,

With sword and fire he comes, — the Dragon King !


Then all, save Harold, shriek to Hope farewell ;

Melts the last barrier ; through the clearing space.
On towards the camp the Cymrian chiefs compel

The ardent followers from the tempting chase ;
Thro' Crida's ranks to Arthu/s side they gain,
And blend two streams in one resistless main.


True to his charge as chief, mid all disdain
Of recreant lithsmen — Harold's iron soul

Sees the storm sweep beyond it o'er the plain ;
And lofty duties, yet on earth, controul

The yearnings for Walhalla : — Where the day

Paled to the burning ships — he towered away.


And with him, mournful, drooping, rent and torn,
But captive not — the Pale Horse dragg'd its mane.

Beside the fire-reflecting waves, forlorn.

As ghosts that gaze on Phlegethon — the Thane

Saw listless leaning o'er the silent coasts.

The spectre wrecks of what at morn were hosts.



Tears rush'd to burning eyes, and choked awhile
The trumpet music of his manly voice,

At length he spoke : " And are ye then so vile !
A death of straw ! Is that the Teuton's choice ?

By all our gods, I hail that reddening sky,

And bless the burning fleets wdiich flight deny !


'' Lo, yet the thunder clothes the charger's mane,
As when it crested Hengist's helmet crown !

What ye have lost — an hour can yet regain ;
Life has no path so short as to renown !

Shrunk if your ranks, — when first from Albion's shore

Your sires carved Kingdoms, were their numbers more ?


'■' If not your valour, let your terrors speak.

Where fly ? — what path can lead you from the foes ?
Where hide ? — what cavern wnll not vengeance seek ?

What shun ye ? Death ? — Death smites ye in repose !
Back to your king ; from Hela snatch the brave —
We best escape, when most we scorn, the grave."


Boused by the words, tho' half reluctant still.
The listless ranks re-form their slow array,

Sullen but stern they labour up the hill.

And gain the brow ! — In smouldering embers lay

The castled camp, and slanting sunbeams shed

Light o'er the victors — quiet o'er the dead.



Hush'd was the roar of war — the conquered ground
Waved with the ghtter of the Cymrian spears ;

The temple fort the Dragon standard crown'd ;
And Christian anthems peal'd on Pagan ears :

The Mercian halts his bands — their front survej^s ;

No fierce eye kindles to his fiery gaze.


One dull, disheartened, but not dastard gloom
Clouds every brow, — like men compelled to die,

Who see no hope that can elude the doom,
Prepared to Ml but powerless to defy.

Not those the ranks, yon ardent hosts to face !

The Hour had conquered earth's all conquering race.


The leader paused, and into artful show.
Doubling the numbers with extended wing,

*^ Here halt," he said, " to yonder hosts I go
With terms of peace or war to Cymri's king."

Tie turned, and towards the victor's bright array,

With tromj) and herald, strode his bitter way.


Before the signs to war s sublime belief
Sacred, the host disparts its hushing wave.

Moved by the sight of that renowned chief,

Joy stills the shout that might insult the brave;

And princeliest guides the stately foeman bring,

Where Odin's temple shrines the Christian king.



The North's fierce idol, rolFd in pools of blood,
Lies criish'd before the Cross of Nazareth.

Crouch'd on the splintered fragments of their god,
Silent as clouds from which the tempest's breath

Has gone, — the butchers of the priesthood rest. —

Each heavy brow bent o'er each stonej breast.


Apart, the guards of Cymri stand around
The haught repose of captive Teuton kings ;

With eyes disdainful of the chains that bound,
And fronts superb — as if defeat but flings

A kinglier grandeur over fallen power : —

So suns shine larger in their setting hour.


From these remote, unchained, unguarded, leant
On the gnarl'd pillar of the fort of pine,

The Saturn of the Titan armament.

His looks averted from the altered shrine

Whence iron Doom the Antique Faith has hurl'd,

For that new Jove who dawns upon the world !


And one broad hand conceal'd the monarch's face ;

And one lay calm on the low-bended head
Of the forgiving child, whose young embrace

Clasp'd that gray wreck of Empire ! All had fled
The heart of pride : — Thrones, hosts, the gods ! yea all
That scaled the heaven, strew'd Hades with their fall !



But Natural Love, the household melody

Steals thro' the dearth, — resettling on the breast;

The bird returning with the silenced sky,
Sings in the ruin, and rebuilds its nest.

Home came the Soother that the storm exiled, —

And Crida's hand lay calm upon his child !


Beside her sister saint, Genevra kneeleth.

Mourning her father's in her Country's woes ;

And near her, hushing iron footsteps, stealeth

The noblest knight the wondrous Table knows —

Whispering low comfort into thrilling ears —

When Harold's plume floats up the flash of spears.


But the proud Earl, with warning hand and eye,
Repells the yearning arms, the eager start ;

Man amidst men, his haughty thoughts deny
To foes the triumph o'er his father's heart;

Quickly he turn'd — where shone amidst his ring

Of subject planets, the Hyperion Kinj



There Tristan graceful — Agrafayn uncouth ;

And Owaine comely with the battle-scar,
And Geraint's lofty age, to venturous youth

Glory and guide, as to proud ships a star ;
And Gawaine, sobered to his gravest smile.
Lean on the spears that lighten through the pile.



There stood the stoic Alemen sedate,

Blocks hewn from man, which love with life inspired ;
There, by the Cross, from eyes serene with Fate,

Look'cl into space the Mage ! and carnage-tired.
On -^gis shields, like Jove's still'd thunders, lay
Thine ocean giants, Scandinavia !


But lo, the front, where conquest's auriole
Shone, as round Genius marching at the van

Of nations ; — where the victories of the soul
Stamped Nature's masterpiece, perfected Man :

Fair as young Honour's vision of a king

Fit for bold hearts to serve, free lips to sing !


So stood the Christian Prince in Odin's hall.
Gathering in one. Renown's converging rays;

But, in the hour of triumph, turn, from all
War's victor pomp, the memory and the gaze ;

Miss that last boon the mission should achieve.

And rest where droops the dove-like Genevieve.


Now at the sight of Mercia's haughty lord,
A loftier grandeur calms yet more his brow ;

And leaning lightly on his sheathless sword.

Listening he stood, while spoke the Earl : — " I bow

Not to war's fortune, but the victor's fame ;

Thine is so large, it shields thy foes from shame.



^' Prepared for battle, proffering peace I come,

On yonder hills eno' of Saxon steel
Remains, to match the Cj^mrian Christendom ;

Not slaves with masters, men with men would deal.
We cannot leave j-our land, our chiefs in gyves, —
While chains irall Saxons, Saxon war survives.


^' Our kings, our women, and our priests release.
And in their name I pledge (no mean return)

A ransom worthy of both nations — Peace ;

Peace with the Teuton ! On jowy hills shall burn

No more the beacon ; on j'our fields, no more

The steed of Hengist plunge its hoofs in gore,


*^ Peace while this race remains — (our sons, alas.
We cannot bind !) Peace with the Mercian men :

This is the ransom. Take it, and we pass
Friends from a foeman's soil ; reject it, — then

Firm to this land we cling, as if our own.

Till the last Saxon falls, or Cymri's throne 1"


Abrupt upon the audience dies the voice.

And varying passions stir the murmurous groupes ;

Here, to the wiser ; there, the haughtier choice :
Youth rears its crest ; but age foreboding droops ;

Chiefs yearn for fame ; the crowds to safety cling ;

The murmurs hush, and thus replies the King : —



^' Foe, thy proud speech offends no manly ear.

So would I speak, could our conditions change.
Peace gives no shame, where war has brought no fear ;

We fought for freedom, — we disdain revenge ;
The freedom won, no cause for war remains,
And loyal Honour binds more fast than chains.


" The Peace thus proffered, with accustomed rites,
Hostage and oath, confirm, ye Teuton kings,

And ye are free ! Where we, the Christians, fight,
Our Valkyrs sail with healing on their wings ;

We shed no blood but for our fatherland ! —

And so, frank soldier, take this soldier's hand !"


Low o'er that conquering hand, the high-soul'd foe
Bow'd the war plumed upon his raven crest ;

Caught from those kingly words, one generous glow
Chased Hate's last twilight from each Cymrian breast;

Humbled, the captives hear the fetters fall.

Power's tranquil shadow — Mercy, awes them all !


Dark scowl the Priests; — with vengeance Priestcraft
dies !

Slow looks, where Pride yet struggles, Crida rears ;
On Crida's child rest Arthur's soft'ning eyes ;

And Crida's child is weeping happy tears ;
And Lancelot, closer at Genevra's side.
Pales at the compact that may lose the bride.



When from tlie altar by the holy rood,

Come the deep accents of the Cjanrian Mage,

Sublimely bending o'er the multitude

Thought's Atlas temples crown'd with Titan age,

O'er Druid robes the beard's broad silver streams,

As when the vision rose on virgin dreams.


'' Hearken, ye Scythia's and Cimmeria's sons,
Whose sires alike by golden rivers dwelt.

When sate the Asas on their hunter thrones ;
When Orient vales rejoiced the shepherd Celt ;

While Eve's young races towards each other drawn,

Roved lingering round the Eden gates of dawn.


*^ Still the old brother-bond in these new homes.
After long woes, shall bind your kindred races ;

Here, the same God shall find the sacred domes ;
And the same land-marks bound your resting-j)laces.

What time, o'er realms to Heus and Tlior unknown,

Both Celt and Saxon rear their common throne.


'' Meanwhile, revere the Word the viewless Hand
Writes on the leaves of kingdom-dooming stars ;

Thro' Prydain's Isle of Pines, from sea to land.
Where yet Rome's eagle leaves the thunder scars,

The sceptre-sword of Saxon kings shall reach,

And new-born nations speak the Teuton's speech.



"All save thy mountain empire, Dragon king!

All save the Cymrian Ararat^ — ^Yild Wales !*
Here Cymrian bards to fame and God shall sing —

Here Cymrian freemen breathe the hardy gales.
And the same race that Heus the Guardian led,
Rise from these graves — when God awakes the dead !"


The Prophet paused, and all that pomp of plumes
Bowed as the harvest which the south wind heaves,

When, while the breeze disturbs, the beam illumes,
And blessings gladden in the trembling sheaves.

He paused, and thus renewed : " Thrice happy, ye

Founders of shrines and sires of kings to be !


" Hear, Harold, t3'23e of the strong Saxon soul,

Supple to truth, untameable by force.
Thy dauntless blood thro' GAvjmedd's chiefs shall roll,f

Thro' Scotland's monarchs take its fiery course,
And How with Arthur's, in the later days,
Thro' Ocean-Coesars, either zone obeys.

* " Their Lord they shall praise,

And their language they shall preserve ;
Their land they shall lose,

Except Wild Wales!" — Puophect of Taliessix.

■f This prediction refers to the marriage of the daughter of Griffith ap Llewellyn
(Prince of Gwynedd, or North Wales, whose name and fate are not unfamiliar to
those who have read the romance of "Harold, the Last of the Saxon Kings") with
Fleance. From that marriage descended the Stuarts, and mdeed the reigtnng family
of Great Britain.


" Man of the manly heart, reward the foe

Who braved thy sword, and yet forebore thy breast,
Who loved thy child, yet could the love forego

And give the sire ; — thy looks supply the rest,
I read thine answer in thy generous glance !
Stand forth- — bold child of Christian Chevisaunce !"


Then might ye see a sight for smiles and tears.
Young Lancelot's hand in Harold's cordial grasp,

While from his breast the frank-eyed father rears
The cheek that glows beneath the arms that clasp ;

'^ Shrink'st thou," he said, " from bonds by fate reveal'd ?

Go — rock my grandson in the Cymrian's shield !"


" And ye," the solemn voice resumed, " kings !

Hearken, Pendragon, son of Odin hear !
There is a mystery in the heart of things.

Which Truth and Falsehood, seek alike with fear,
To Truth from Heaven, to Falsehood breathed from hell.
Comes yet to both the unquiet oracle.


" Not vainly, Crida, priest, and rune, and dream,
Warned thee of fates commingling into one

The silver river and the mountain stream ;
From Odin's daughter and Pendragon's son,

Shall rise those kings that in remotest years

Shall grasp the birthright of the Saxon spears.



" The bright decree that seem'd a curse to Fate,
Blesses both races when fulfilFd by love ;

Saxon, from Arthur shall thy lineage date,
Thine eagles, Arthur, from thy Saxon dove.

The link of peace let nuptial garlands weave,

And Cymri's queen be Saxon Genevieve !"


Perplexed, reluctant with the pangs of pride.
And shadowy doubts from dark religion thrown,

Stern Crida lingering turned his face aside ;
Then rise the elders from the idol stone ;

From fallen chains the kindred Teutons spring.

Low murmurs rustle round the moody king ;

On priest and warrior, while they w^hisper, dwells

The searching light of that imperious eye ;
Warrior and priest, the prophet word compels ;

And overmasters like a destiny —
When towards the maid the radiant conqueror drew,
And said, " Enslaver, it is mine to sue !"


To Crida, then, " Proud chief, I do confess
The loftier attribute 't is thine to boast.

The pride of kings is in the power to bless.

The kingliest hand is that which gives the most ;

Priceless the gift I ask thee to bestow, —

But doubly royal is a generous foe !"



Then forth — subdued, yet stately, Crida came,
And the last hold in that rude heart was won :

" Hero, thy conquest makes no more my shame,
He shares thy glory who can call thee ' Son !'

So may this love-knot bind and bless the lands !"

Faltering he spoke — and joined the plighted hands.

There flock the hosts as to a holy ground.

.There where the dove at last may fold the wing !

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Online LibraryEdward Bulwer Lytton LyttonKing Arthur → online text (page 24 of 25)