Edward Robert Bulwer Lytton Lytton.

The poetical works of Owen Meredith (Robert, Lord Lytton) online

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sign
Of that great inward agony that she

bore ;
For she was not of those whose

sternest sorrow
Outpours in plaints, or weeps itself

in dew ;
Not passionate she, nor of the happy

souls
Whose grief comes tempered with

the gift of tears.

So, through long weeks and many a

weary moon,
Silent and self-involved, without a

llgh,

She suffered. There, whence con-
solation comes,
She sought it at the foot of Jesu'a

cross,
And on the bosom of the Virgin

spouse,
And in communion with the blesse'd

Saints.
But chief for him she prayed whoso

grievous sin
Had wrought her desolation ; Cod

besought
To touch the leprous soul and make

it clean ;



OR, THE BA TTLE OF THE BARDS.



335



And sue 1 the Heavenly Pastor to re-
call
The lost sheep, wandering from the

pleasant ways,
Back to the pasture, of the paths of

peace.

^o thrice a day, what time the blush-
ing morn
!riiusoned the orient sky, and when

the sun
Glared from mid-heaven or weltered

in the west,
Fervent she prayed ; nor in the night

forewent
HIT vidls ; till at last from prayer

she drew
A calm into her soul, and in that

calm
.Heard a low whispei like the breeze

thai hreaks
The deep p,-ace of the forest ere the

chirp
Of earliest hird salutes the advent

Day-
Thrill through her, herald of the

dawn of Hope.

Then most she loved from forth her

leafy tower
Listless to watch the irrevocable

clouds
Roll on, and daylight waste itself

away
Along those dreaming woods, whence

evermore
She mused, " He will return ;'' and

fondly wove
Her webs of wistful fantasy till the

uioon
Was high in heaven, and in its light

she kneeled,
4 faded watcher through the weary

night,
A meek, sweet statue at the silver

shrines,
lu deep, perpetual prayer for him

she loved.
And from the pitying Sisterhood of

Saints
Haply that prayer shall win an angel

down



To he his unseen minister, and draw
A drowning conscience from the
deeps of Hell.

Time put his si< kle in among tho

days.
Ulithe Summer came, and into

dimples danced

The fair and fructifying Earth, anon
Showering the gathered guerdon oi

her play
Into the lap of Autumn ; Autumn

stored
The gift, piled ready to the palsied

hand
Of blind and begging Winter ; and

when he
Closed his well-provcndered days.

Spring ligh.ly came
And scattered sweets upon his sul-

ien grave.
And twice the seasons passed, th

sisters three
Doing glad service for their hoary

brother,
And twice twelve moons had waxed

and waned, and twice
The weary world had pilgriincd

round the sun.
When from the outskirts of the land

there came
Rumor of footsore penitents from

Rome
Returning, jubilant of remitted sin.

So chanced it, on a silent April evo
The westering sun along the Wart-
burg vale
Shot level boams, and into glory

touched
The image of Madonna, where if

stands
Hard by the common way that eliml/s

the steep.

The linage of .Madonna, and tire f <<.
Of meek Elizabeth turned lotvarcif

the ljueen
Of Sorrows, sorrowful in patient

prayer ;
When, through the silence atd the

sleepy leaves,



TANNHA USER ;



A breeze blew up the vale, and on

the breeze
Floated a plaintive music. She that

heard,
Trembled ; the prayer upon her

parted lips
Suspended hung, and one swift hand

she pressed
Against the palpitating heart whose

throbs
Confused ( i cunning of her ears.

Ah God !
Was this the voice of her returning

joy ?
The psalm of shriven pilgrims to

their homes
Returning ? Ay ! it swells upon the

breeze
The " Nunc Dimittis" of glad souls

that sue

After salvation seen to part in peace.
Then up she sprung, and to a neigh-
boring copse
Swift as a startled hind, when the

ghostly moon
Draws sudden o'er the silvered

heather-bells
The monstrous shadow of a cloud,

she sped ;
Pausing, low-crouched, within a

maze of shrubs,
Whose emerald slivers fringed the

rugged way
So broad, the pilgrim's garments as

they passed
Would brush the leaves that hid her.

And anon
They came in double rank, and two

by two,
With cumbered steps, with haggard

gait, that told
Of bodily toil and trouble, with be-

soiled
And tattered garments ; nathless

with glad eyes,
Whence looked thesnnl disburthened

of her sin.
Climbing the rude path, two by two

they came.

And she, that watched with what in-
tensest gazo



Them coming, saw old faces that she

knew,
And every face turned skywards,

while the lips
Poured out the heavenly psalm, and

every soul

Sitting seraphic in the upturned eyes
With holy fervor rapt upon the soni.' :
Aud still they came and passed, a;i

still she gazed ;
And still she thought, " Now comes

he ! " and the chant
Went heavenwards, and the file'd pil

grims fared
Beside her, till their tale wellnigh

was told.

Then o'er her soul a shuddering hor-
ror crept,
And, in that agony of mind that

makes

Doubt more intolerable than despair,
With sudden hand she brushed aside

the sprays,
And from the thicket leaned and

looked. The last [ken

Of all the pilgrims stood within the
Of her keen gaze, save him all

scanned, and he
Xo sooner scanned than cancelled

from her eyes
By vivid lids swept down to lash

away
Him hateful, being other than she

sought.
So for a space, blind with dismay,

she paused,
But, he approaching, from the

thicket leapt.
Clutched with wrung hands his rol-e,

and gasped, "The Knight
That with you went, returns not" ? '

In his psalm
The fervid pilgrim made no paust.

yet gazed

At his wild questioner, intelligent
Of her demand, and shook his head

and passed.
Then she, with that mute answer

stabbed to the heart.
Sprung forward, clutched him yet

once more, and cried,



OX, THE BA TTLE OF THE BARDS.



337



" In Mary's name, and in the name

of '(.rod,
Received the knight his shrift?"

And, once again,
The pilgrim, sorrowful, shook his

head and sighed,
Sighed in the singing of his psalm,

and passed.

Th in prone she fell upon her face,

and prone
W:'.~ in her mind Hope's shattered

fabric fell,
The dear and delicate fahric of frail

Hope
Wrought l>y the simple cunning of

iier thoughts,
That, laboring long, through many

a dreamy day
And many a vigil of the wakeful

night.
Piecemeal had reared it, patiently,

with pain.
From out the ruins of her ancient

peace.
O ancient Peace ! that never shall

return ;

ruined hope ! O Fancy ! over-
fond,

Futile artiticer that build'st on air,
M.irred is thy handiwork, and thou

shall please
With plastic fantasies her soul no

more.

So lay she cold against the callous

ground,
Her pale face pillowed on a stone,

her eyes

ST.-le open, "fixed into a ghastly stare
T.at knew no speculation ; for her

mind
tVas dark, and all her faculty of

thought
0:>tnr assiouately cancelled. But she

lay
Nc: in the embrace of loyal Death,

who keeps
His bride forever, but in treacherous

anus
Of Sleep that, sated, will restore to

Grief



Her, snatched a sweet space from

his cruel clutch,
So lay she cold against the callous

ground,
And none was near to heed her, aa

the sun,
About him drawing the vast-skirto'

clouds,
Went down behind the western hil

to die.

Now Wolfram, when the rumor

reached his ears
That, from their quest of saving

grace returned,

The pilgrims all within the castle-
court
Were gathered, flocked about by

happy friends,
Passed from his portal swiftly, and

ran out
And joined the clustering crowd.

Full many a face,
Wasted and wan, he recognized, and

elapsed
Full many a lean hand clutching at

his own,
Of those who, stretched upon the

grass, or propped
Against the bowlder-stones, were

pressed about
By weeping women, clamorous to

unbind
Their sandal-thongs and bathe the

bruise'd feet.
Then up and down, and swiftly

through and througk,
And round about, skirting the

crowd, he hurried.
With greetings fair to all ; till, iiliei

with fear,
Half-hopeless of his quest, yet bar.

boring hope,
He paused perplexed besides the

castle gates.
There, at his side, the youngest of

the train.
A blue-eyed pilgrim tarried, and to

him
Turned Wolfram questioning of

Tannhauser's fate,



TANNHAUSERi



And learnt in few words how, his

sin pronounced

lX.idly and irremediable, the knight
Had faded from before the awful

face
Of Christ's incensed Vicar ; and

none knew
Wh;ti^er he wandered, to what

desolate lands,
Hid Lnq; his anguish from the eyes of

men.
Theu Wolfram groaned, and elapsed

his hands, and cried,
" Merciful God !" and fell upon his

knees

in purpose as of prayer, but, sud-
denly,
About the g.ite the crowd moved,

and a cry
Went up for space, when, rising, he

beheld
Four maids who on a pallet bore the

form
Of wan Elizabeth. The whisper

grew
That she had met the pilgrims, and

had learned
Tannhiiusers fate, and fallen beside

the way.

And Wolfram, in the ghastly torch-
light, saw
The white face of the Princess

tunned to his,
A nd for a space their eyes met ;

then she raised
One hand towards Heaven, and

smiled as who should say,
|; O friend, I journey unto God;

farewell !"
JJat he could answer nothing ; for

his eyes
X<x* blinded by his tears, and

through his tears
Dimly, as in a dream, he saw her

borne
Up the broad granite steps that

wind witl.in

The palace ; and his inner eye, en-
tranced,
Saw in a vision four great Angels

stand,



Expectant of her spirit, ar IK., foot
Of flights of blinding brilliancy of

stairs
Innumerable, that through the rivea

skies
Scaled to the City of the Saints of

God.
Then, when thick night fell on b a

soul, and all

The vision tied, he solitary stood
A crazed man within the east)-

court ;
Whence issuing, with wild eyes aiid

wandering gait
He through the darkness, groaning,

passed away.

All that lone night, along the
haunted hills,

By di/./y brinks of mountain pre-
cipices,

He fleeted, aimless as an unused
wind

That wastes itself about a wilder-
ness.

Sometimes from low-browed cavos,
and hollow crofts,

Under the hanging woods there
came and went

A voice of wail upon the midnight
air,

As of a lost soul mourning ; and
the voice

Was still the voice of his remem-
bered friend.

Sometimes (so fancy mocked the
fears she bred !)

He heard along the lone and eery
land

Low demon laughters ; and a su'kn
strain

Of horror swelled upon the breee ;
and sounds

Of wizard dance, with shawm an.1
timbrel. Hew

Ever betwixt waste air and warder-
ing cloud

O'er pathless peaks. Then, hi the
distance tolled,

Or seemed to toll, a kiiell : tLo
breezes drooped :



OK, THE BATTLE OF THE HARDS.



339



Anil, in the sudden pause, that

passing hell
With ghostly summons bade, him

back return
To whore, till dawn, a shade among

the shades
Of Warihurg. watching one lone

tower. IIP saw
A ligl-t that waned with all his

earthly hopes.
The calm Dawn came and from the

eastern cliff.
Athwart the glistening slopes and

cold green copse,
Called to him, careless of a grief

not hers ;
But he, from all her babbling birds,

and all
Her vexing sunlight, with a wea^y

heart
Drew close the darkness of the glens

and glades
About him. flying through the forest

deeps.
And day and night, dim eve and

dewy dawn,
Three times returning, went un-

cared for by ;
And thrice the double twilights rose

and fell
About a land where nothing seemed

the same,
At eve or dawn, as in the time gone

by.
But, when the fourth day like a

stranger slipped'
To his unhonored grave, God's

Angel passed

A'.TOSS the threshold of the Land-
grave's hall,
\nd in his bosom bore to endless

peace

The weary spirit of Elizabeth.
Then, in that hour when Death with

gentle hand
Hac' 1 moped the juiet eyelids o'er

the eyes
That Wolfram loved, to Wolfram's

heart there came
A calmness like thn calmness of a

grave



Walled safe from all the noisy walks

of men
In some green place of peace where

daisies grow.
His tears fell in the twilight with the

dews,

Soft as the dews that with the twi-
light fell,
When, over scarred and weat'ter-

wounded walls.
Sharp-jagged mountain cones, and

tangled quicks,
Eve's spirit, settling, laid the land

to sleep
In skyey trance. Nor yet less soft

to fuse
Memory with hope, and earth with

heaven, to him,
Athwart the harsher anguish of that

day,

There stole with tears the tender hu-
man sense
Of heavenly mercy. Through that

milder mood,
Like waifs that float to shore when

storms are spent,
Flowed to his heart old memories of

his friend,
O'erwoven with the weed of other

griefs,
Of other griefs for her that grieved

no more

And of that time when, like a blaz-
ing star
That moves and mounts between the

Lyre and Crown,
Tannhiiuser shone ; ere sin came,

and with sin
Sorrow. And now if yet Tannhau-

ser lived
None knew : and if he lived, what

hope in life ?
And if he lived no more, what rest

in death ?
But every way the dreadful doom of

sin.

Thus, musing much on all the mys-
tery
Of life, and death, and love that will

not die, [way ;

He wandered forth, incurious of the



340



TAXNUAUSER ;



Which took the wont of other days,

and wound
Along the valley. Now the nodding

star
Of even, and the deep, the dewy

hour
Hel" all the sleeping circle of the

hills ;
Nor any cloucl the stainless heavens

obscured,
Save where, o'er Horsel folded in

1ho frown
Ot aK. his wicked woods, a fleecy

fringe
Of vapor veiled the slowly sinking

moon.
There, in the shade, the stillness,

o'er his harp
Leaning, of love, and life, and death

he sang
A song to winch from all her aery

caves
The mountain echo murmured in

her sleep.
But, as the last strain of his solemn

song

Died off among the solitary stars,
There came in answer from the

folded hills
A note of human woe. He turned,

ho looked
That way the sound came o'er the

lonely air ;
A d, seeing, yet believed not that

he saw,
But, nearer moving, saw indeed

hard by,
Dark in the darkness of a neighbor-

joghill,
I.j-'.ag among the splintered stones

and stubs
Flat in the fern, with limbs diffused

as one
That, having fallen, cares to rise no

more,

A y J',Tim ; all his weeds of pilgrim-
age
Hanging and torn, his sandals

stained with blood
Of bruised feet, and, broken in his

hand,



II is wreathed staff.

And Wolfram wistfully
Looked in his face, and knew it not.

" Alas !
Xot him," he murmured, "not iny

friend !" And then,
"What art thou, pilgrim '{ whence

thy way ? how fall'n
In this wild g'leu ? at this lone hour

abroad
When only Grief is stirring ? " Unto

whom
That other, where he lay in the long

grass,

Not rising, but with petulant ges-
ture, " Hence ! "
Whatever I am, it skills not. Thee I

know
Full well, Sir Wolfram of the Wil-

lowbrook,
The well-beloved Singer ! '

Like a dart
From a friend's hand that voice

through Wolfram went :
For Memory over all the ravaged

form
Wherefrom it issued, wandering

failed to find
The man she mourned ; but Wol

fram, to the voice
No stranger, started smit with pain ,

as all
The past on those sharp tones came

back to break
His heart with hopeless knowledge

And he cried,
"Alas, my brother!" Such a

change, so drear,

In all so uulike all that once he was
Showed the lost knight TauuMuier,

where he lay
Fallen across the split and morsel.'-," I

crags

Like a dismantled ruin. And Wol-
fram said,
"O lost! how comest thcu, uuab-

solved, once more
Among these valleys visited by

death,
And shadowed with the shadow of

thy sin ? "



OR, THE BATTLE OF THE BARDS,



341



Whereto 5n scorn Tannhauser, " Be

at rest,
O fearful in thy righteousness ! not

thee,
Nor grace of thine, I seek."

Speaking, he rose

The spectre of a beauty waned away;
And, like a hollow echo of himself
Mocking his own last words, he mur-
mured, " Seek !

Alas ! what seek I here, or any-
where ?

Whose way of life is like the crum-
bled stair
That winds and winds about a

ruined tower,
And leads nowhither ! "

But Wolfram cried, "Yet turn !
For, as I live, I will not leave thee

thus.
My life shall be about thee, and my

voice
Lure scared Hope back to find a

resting-place
Even in the jaws of Death. I do

adjure thee,
By all that friendship yet may claim,

declare
That, even though unabsolved, not

uncontrite,
Thy soul no more hath lapsed into

the snare
Of that disastrous sorcery. Bid me

hail,
Seen through the darkness of thy

desolation,
Some light of purer purpose ; since

I deem
Not void of purpose has thou sought

these paths
That range among the places of the

past ;
And I will make defeat of Grief

with such [Arm

True fellowship of tears as shall dis-
Hsr right hand of its scorpions ; nor

in vain
My prayers with thine shall batter at

the gates
Of Mercy, through all antagonisms

of fate



Forcing sharp inlet to her throne in
Heaven."

Whereat Tannhauser, turning tear-
less eyes

On Wolfram, murmured mournful-
ly, "If tears

Fiery as those from fallen seraphs
distilled,

Or centuries of prayers for pardon
sighed

Sad, as of souls in purgatorial
glooms,

Might soften condemnation, or re-
store

To her, whom most on earth I have
offended,

The holy freight of all her innocent
hopes

Wrecked in this mined venture, I
would weep

Salt oceans from these eyes. But I
no more

May drain the deluge from my heart,
no more

On any breath of sigh or prayer re-
build

The rainbow of discovenanted Hope.

Thou, therefore, Wolfram for her
face, when mine

Is dark forever, thine eyes may still
behold

Tell her, if thou unblamed may'st
speak of one

Signed cross by the curse of God and
cancelled out,

How, at the last, though in remorse
of all

That makes allegiance void and
valueless,

To me has come, with knowledge of
my loss,

Fealty to that pure passion, once be-
trayed,

Wherewith I loved, and love her."

There his voice,
Even as a wave that, touching on

the shore
To which it travelled, is shivered

and diffused,



342



TANNHZUSER ;



Sank, scattered into spray of waste-
ful sighs,

And back dissolved into the deeper
grief.

To whom. Wolfram, " O answer by

the faith
In which mankind are kindred, art

thou not
From Home, unhappiest ?" " From

liome? ah me !"
lie muttered, " Rome is far off, very

far,

And weary is the way ! " But un-
deterred
Wolfram renewed, "And hast thou

not beheld
The face of Christ's High Vicar ?"

And again,
" Pass on," he muttered, " what is

that to thee ? "
Wliereto, with sorrowful voice,

Wolfram, "O all,
And all in all to me that love my

friend ! "
"My friend !" Tannhauser laughed

a bitter lauuh
Then sadlier said, "What thou

wouldst know, once known.
Will cause thee to recall that wasted

word
And cancel all the kindness in thy

thoughts ;
Yet shall thou learn my misery, and

learn
The man so changed, whom once

thou callfdst * friend,'
That unto him the memory of him-
self
Is as a s'.anger." Then, with eyes

that swam
True sorrow, Wolfram stretched his

arms and sought
To clasp Tannhauser to him : but

the other
Waved him away and with a shout

that sprang
Fisrce with self-scorn from misery's

deepest depth.
" Avaunt !" he cried, the ground

whereon I tread



Is ground accurst !

" Yet stand not ?<> f.ir off
But what thine ears, if yet they w ill,

may take
The ta o thy lips from mine have

sc tight to learn ;
Then, sign thyself, and peaceful 30

thy ways.''
And Wolfram, for the grief th;;i

choked his voice,
Could only murmur "Speak !" But

for a while
Tannhauser to sad silence gave his

heart ;
Then fetched back some far thought,

sighing, and said :

" O Wolfram, by the love of lovl.or

days

Believe I am not so far fallen away
From all I was while we might yet

be friends,
But what these words, haply iny

last, are true :
True as my heart's deep woe what

time I felt
Cold on my brow tears wept, and

wept in vain,
For me, among the scorn of altered

friends.

Parting that day for Rome. Re-
member this :
That when, in after years to which

I pass
A by-word, and a mockery, aiid nc

more,
Thou, honored still by honorable

men,
Shalt hear my name dishorned,

thou may'st say,
' Greatly he grieved for that grea*

sin he sinned.'

" Ever, as up the windy Alpine way,

We halting oft by cloudy convent
doors,

My fellow-pilgrims warmed them-
selves within,

And ate and drank, and slept their
sleep, all nighl,



OR, THE BA TTLE OF THE BARDS.



343



., fasting, slept not but in ice and
snow

Wept, aye remembering her that
wept for me,

And loathed the sin withiu me.
When at length

Our way lay under garden terraces

fctrewn with their tin >ppiiig blossoms,
thick with scents,

Among the towers and towns of
Italy.

Whose sumptuous airs along them,
like the ghosts

Of their old gods, went sighing, I
nor looked

Nor lingered, hut with bandaged eye-
balls prest,

Impatient, to the city of the shrine

Of my desired salvation. There by
Eight

We entered. There, all night, for-
lorn I lay

Bruised, broken, bleeding, all my
garments torn,

And all my spirit stricken with re-
morse,

Prostrate beneath the great cathedral
stairs.

So the dawn found me. FIOIU a
hundred spires

A hundred silvery chimes rang joy :
but I

Lay folded in the shadow of my
shame,

Darkening the daylight from me in
the dust.

Then came a sound of solemn music
flowing

To where I crouched ; voices and
trampling feet ;

And, girt by all his crimson car-
dinals,

In all his pomp the sovran Pontiff
stood

L<?fore me in the centre of my
hopes ;

Which tretn I >!ed round him into
glorious shapes,

Golden, as clouds that ring the risen
sun. [fell

And all the people, all the pilgrims,



Low at his sacred feet, confessed

their sins,
And, pardoned, rose with psalms of

jubilee
And confident glad faces.

Then I sprang
To where he paused above me ; witfi

wild hands
Clutched at the skirts I could ni>

reach ; and sank
Sliiveringly back ; crying, 'O holy,

and high,
And terrible, that hast the keys of

heaven !

Thou that dost bind and dost un-
loose, from me,
For Mary's sake, and the sweet

saints', unbind
The grievous burthen of the curse I

bear.'
And when he questioned, and I told

him all
Tne sin that smouldered in my blood,

how bred,
And all the strangeness of it, then

his face
Was as the Judgment Angel's ; and

I hid
My own ; and, hidden from his eyea,

1 heard :

" ' Hast thou within the nets ol

Satan lain ?
Hast thou thy soul to her perdition

pledged ?
Hast thou thy lip to Hell's En-

chatress lent,

To drain damnation from her reek-
ing cup ?
Then know that sooner from the

withered staff
That in my hand I hold green leave

shall spring.
Than from the brand in hell-fire

scorched rebloom
The blossoms of salvation.'

The voice ceased,
And, with it all things from my

sense. I waked
I know not when, but all the place

was dark :



34-4



TANNHAUSER;



Above me, and about me, and with-
in

Darkness : and from that hour by
moon or sun

Darkness unutterable as of death

Where'er I walk. But death him-
self is near 1

( ), might I once more see her, un-
seen ; unheard,

Hear her once more ; or know that
she forgives

Whom Heaven forgives not, nor his
own lost peace ;

I think that even among the nether
fires

And those dark fields of Doom to
wlii cli I pass,

Some blessing yet would haunt me."
Sorrowfully

He ross among the tumbled rocks
and loaned

Against the dark. As one that many
a year,

Sundered by savage soas unsociable

From kin and i nuutry, in a desert
isle

Dwelling till half dishumanized, be-
holds

Haply, one e\> far-off sail go by,

That brings old thoughts of home
across his heart

And still the man who thinks
"They are all goi e.

Or changed, that loved me once, and
I myself

No more the same " watches the
dwindling speck

With weary eyes, nor shouts, nor
waves a hand ;

Ihit after, when the night is left
alone,

4 sadness falls upon him, and he
feels

More solitary in his solitudes

And tears come starting fast ; so,
tearful, stood

Tannhiiuser, whilst his melancholy
thoughts, [hope,

From following up far off a waning

Back to himself came, one by one,
more sad



Because of sadness troubled.

Yet not long
He rested thus ; but murmured,

" Now, farewell :

I go to hide me darkly in the groves
That she was wont to haunt ; where

some sweet chance
Haply may yield me sight of her,

and I
May stoop, she passed away, to kiss

the ground



Online LibraryEdward Robert Bulwer Lytton LyttonThe poetical works of Owen Meredith (Robert, Lord Lytton) → online text (page 34 of 48)