Mary Botham Howitt.

Ballads and other poems .. online

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" Now fare ye well, my bonny bird !
We two no more shall go
O'er the broad hills of Lammermoor,
When morning breezes blow."

They brouglit her hound tliat evermore

Was fleetest in the chase ;
The creature raised a piteous moan,

As he looked into her face.

" Now fare ye well, my gentle hound,
I loved ye well, you know ;
But never more, at cheer of mine,
To the lone hills shall ye go.

" My milk-white steed in his stable stands
And may stand in his stall ;
For I never more in life shall go
From out my father's hall.


" My hawk, and hound, and little steed,

A fair and noble three,
My gentle brothers, shall be yours ;

And love them tenderly :
And, when ye ride to Lammermoor,

Have pleasant thoughts of me.

" Father, farewell ! you have ever been
A father kind and dear ;
I little thought, but yesternight,
Our parting was so near.

" Oh ! mother, let me hold thy hand ;
We two have gone together
Through leafy woods, and up the glens,
In the pleasant summer weather.

" And more than this, on winter nights
I sate beside thy chair.
And heard thee read in holy books,
When thou wast not aware.

" I heard the words that were not meant.
Dear mother, for my ear ;
I pondered on them night and day,
And God has made them clear.

" So farewell all ; and do not grieve
For me, when I am gone ;
There is a home in heaven for me.
And kind friends many a one."

And thus she died ; and six fair girls,

Upon her burial day.
Bore her into the chapel where

The old Lord Maxwells lay.


And many a day, in that old hall,
Great mourning was there made ;

And her brothers three, they sighed for her
In the greenwood, when they played.

And ne'er again to the broad green hills

Did her noble father ride,
But he sighing wished that his daughter May

Were riding at his side.

And ne'er did her lady-mother sit

In her chamber, reading low,
But the tears fell fast on the open page,

And her soul was dark with woe.

Now ye who go to the Maxwells' hall,

Go into the chapel grey,
And ye'll see the tombs of the grim old lords.

And the tomb of the gentle May.

Then think upon this tale of mine,

And drop a tear of sorrow ;
And so may life, as it passeth on.

Bring ever a bright good-morrow !




Among the Isles of the golden Mist,

I lived for many a year :
And all that chanced unto me there

'Tis well that ye should hear.

I dwelt in a hall of silvery pearl,

With rainbow-light inlaid ;
I sate on a throne, old as the sea.

Of the ruby coral made.

The old carbuncle lit the dome,

Where I was made a king ;
The crown was wrought of pale sea-gold,

So was my faiiy ring.

And she who on my right hand sate
As the morning star was fair ;

She was clothed in a robe of shadowy light.
And veiled by her golden hair.

They made me king of the Fairy Isles,

That lie in the golden mist.
Where the coral rocks and the silvery sand

By singing waves are kissed.


Far off, in the ocean solitudes

They lie, a glorious seven ;
Like a beautiful group of sister stars,

In the untraced heights of heaven :

For the mariner sails them round about,
But he comes them not anigh ;

They are hid far off, in a secret place
Of the sea's immensity.

Oh beautiful isles ! where comes no death,

Where no winter enters in,
Where the fairy race, like the lily flowers,

Do neither toil nor spin !

Oh beautiful isles ! where the coral rocks
Like an ancient temple stand.

Like a temple of wondrous workmanship
For a lofty worship planned !

The heights of heaven they roof it in,
O'er-spanned like an azure bow ;

And its floor is the living waves of light,
That cover the depths below ;

The unsunned depths of the ancient sea.
Where the fairy kings of old

Stored up, in emerald caverns vast,
Their treasure-hoards and gold.

Oh beautiful isles ! When the waning moon
Sinks down from the vales of earth,

She rises up on those fairy seas.
And gives their daylight birth.


There comes no cloud to dim her ray,

She shines forth pure and bright ;
The silver moon she shines by day,

The golden mist by night.

Oh beautiful isles ! And a fairy race,

As the dream of a poet, fair,
Now hold the place by a charmed spell.

With power o'er sea and air.

Their boats are made of the large pearl-shell

That the waters cast to land ;
With carved prows more richly wrought

Than works of mortal hand.

They skim along the silver waves

Without or sail or oar ;
Whenever the fairy voyager would,

The pearl ship comes to shore.

They taught me the song which is their speech,

A tone of love divine ;
They set me down to their banquet board,

And poured out fairy wine.

The wine of the old sea-vintage red.

That was made long years ago,
More rich than the blood in kingly veins,

Yet pure and cool as snow.

I loved that idle life for a time ;

But when that time was by,
I pined again for another change.

For the love in a human eye.


They brought me then a glorious form,

And gave her for my bride ;
I loolted on her, and straight forgot

That I was to earth allied.

I snatched the crown they offered me ;

I forgot what I had been ;
I snatched the crown to be a kinsr,

That she might be a queen.

For many a year and more, I dwelt

In those isles of soft delight ;
Where all was kind and beautiful,

With neither death nor night.

We danced on the sands when the silver moon
Through the coral arches gleamed,

And pathways broad of glittering light
O'er the azure waters streamed.

Then shot forth many a pearly boat,

Like stars, across the sea ;
And songs were sung, and shells were blown

That set wild music free.

For many a year and more, I dwelt
With neither thought nor care,

Till I forgot almost my speech,
Forgot both creed and prayer.

At length it chanced that as my boat

Went on its charmed way,
I came unto the veil of mist

Which round the Seven Isles lay.


Even then it was a Sabbath morn ;

A ship was passing by,
And I heard a hundred voices raise

A sound of psalmody.

A mighty love came o'er my heart,

A yearning toward my kind.
And unwittingly I spoke aloud

The impulse of my mind.

" Oh take me hence, ye Christian men !"
I cried in spiritual want ;
Anon the golden mist gave way,
That had been like adamant.

The little boat wherein I sate

Seemed all to melt away j
And I was left upon the sea.

Like Peter, in dismay.

Those Christian mariners, amazed,

Looked on me in affright ;
Some ci'ied I was an evil ghost,

And some a water sprite.

But the chaplain seized the vessel's boat,

M^ith mercy prompt and boon,
And took me up into the ship

As I fell into a swoon.

As one that in delirious dreams

Strange things doth hear and see.
So passed before my mind the shapes »

Of this bright heresy.



In vain I told of what had happed ;

No man to me would list ;
They jested at the Fairy Isles,

And at the golden mist.

They swore I was a shipwrecked man,

Tossed on the dreary main ;
And pitied me, because they thought

My woes had crazed my brain.

At length when I perceived how dull
The minds of men had grown,

1 locked these things within my soul
For my own thought alone.

And soon a wondrous thing I saw ;

I now was old and grey,
A man of threescore years and ten,

A weak man in decay.

And yesterday, and I was young !

Time did not leave a trace
Upon my form, whilst I abode

Within the charmed place.

I trembled at the fearful work
Of threescore years and ten ;

I asked for love, but I had grown
An alien amonfj men.

I passed among the busy crowds ;

I marked their care and pain,
And how they spent their manhood's strength,

To make but little gain.


I saw besotted men mistake

For gold unworthy clay ;
And many more who sell their souls

For the pleasures of a day.

I saw how years on years roll on
As a tale that hath been told,

And then at last they start, like me.
To find that they grow old.

Said I, " These men laugh me to scorn ;

My wisdom they resist ;
But they themselves abide, like me.
Within a golden mist.

" Oh, up, and save yourselves ! Even now
The ship goes hurrying by ;
I hear the hymn of souls redeemed,
Who are bound for eternity !"




How Willie o' Wyburn goes to study with the Monks of Elverslie.

Wyburn Willie was pale and thin,

And he was ten years old ;
He dwelt with his mother, a widow poor,

And books loved more than gold.

Willie, when he was a little child.

He did not rave and cry ;
His spirit was meek as a little saint's,

Yet bright was his dark blue eye.

Willie, he did not run about

With the forest-boys at play ;
But he sate beside his mother's door

A-reading all the day.

The long, long words he could spell them,

And their meaning he could tell ;
And, by the time he was five years old,

He could read the missal well.


There was not a prayer to any saint,

But he the prayer did know ;
Nor a carol good, nor ballad sweet.

That he could not sing also.

" Now, where gat ye this learning, Willie ?"

Said a monk of Elverslie,
" And where did ye get this learning,

For no scholar's son ye be ?

" Your mother she cannot read, poor soul.
Nor is it meet she should ;
Then how did ye get this learning.
All in this lonesome wood ?"

" My learning, methinks, is small," said Willie,
" The aves and the creed.
And the prayers, out of a missal old,
I learned them to read.

" And the forest-folk they sing their songs
All in the forest dim ;
And whenever a wandering harper comes,
I learn a deal from him.

" I'm full of thought when the organ peals.
Or when the bells are rung ;
And I often go down to Elverslie,
To hear the masses sung."

" Thou shalt dwell with me," said the good old monk,
" In the house at Elverslie ;
For thy Latin is spoken sore amiss,
And I '11 make a clerk of thee."


Said Willie, " 'Twould break my mother's heart,

If with her I do not stay ;
Therefore I will go to Elverslie,

If it please you, every day."

Now Willie goes down to Elverslie,
Through the forest doth he go,

In the hot days of the summer,
And through the winter's snow.


Willie he read, and Willie he wrote,
And his head is sound and clear ;

And the fame of Willie o' Wyburn
It spreadeth far and near.

How Willie o' Wyburn spends a Day in the Forest, and what he saw.

Now Willie is ten years old this day,

And pale and thin is he.
And his mother she said, " This reading

Will be the death of thee !

" So, Willie, I pray, for this one day.
That thou thy books wilt leave,
And spend a merry day i' the wood.
From the morn unto the eve."

Willie he laid his books adown.

" And I will do this thing,
Nor open another book," said he,

" Till the vesper bell shall ring."


The summer sun shone over his head,
The larks sung from the sky,

And the forest-streams, among the leaves,
With a talking sound went by.

The blackbird and the throstle-cook
On the forest-boughs sang clear ;

And he heard far off the cawing rooks,
And the cooing stockdoves near.

" 'T is a pleasant thing," said Willie,
" In the forest thus to roam ;
For songs and thoughts keep with me.
Though my books are all at home."

On and on went Willie

Over the mosses brown,
Till he came to the forest-valley.

Where lay the little town.

The grey roofs of the houses small
In the warm sunshine did lie ;

And the taper spire of the church uprose
Above them, sharp and high.

And through the bright sunshiny fields

The winding path was seen ;
And the peaceful cows were grazing,

And the budding corn was green.

He heard the busy mill-wheel sound ;

The merry children shout ;
And the cheerful women, from their doors,

He saw pass in and out.


From the upland slope looked Willie

Into this valley fair ;
And a love sprang up within his heart

For every creature there.

Then down into the town he went,
And onward through the street,

And he got a kindly passing word
From all whom he did meet.

Then on into the greenwood

Went Willie once again ;
And he saw the baron riding there

With all his hunting train.

There were four and twenty noblemen,

And ladies half a score ;
Willie so brave and fair a siaht

Had never seen before.

The hunters they were all in green,
With long bows in their hand ;

To see them riding gaily by,
Willie he made a stand.

The ladies they were on palfreys white.
The nobles they were on bay ;

And the bugles blew with a " tira lee !"
As they came by the way.

" What a gallant sight," said Willie, " 't is.
To see them ride along !"
And he sang aloud, as he went his way,
A blithe old hunting song.


Still on went he along the road,

As cheerful as could be ;
And next he saw, coming slowly up,

A pilgrim company.

All slowly, slowly travelled they,

And yet they were right merry,
Both young and old ; and they were bound

To the shrine at Canterbury.

Willie he looked after them,

And a good wish wished he,
That the pilgrims all might rest next day

At the house of Elverslie.


How Willie o' Wyburn meets with a Minstrel, and how he comes

home again.

Then Willie he sate him down awhile

Beside a water clear.
And he was aware of a tinkling harp

So sweetly sounding near.

And a minstrel youth came cheerily up,

With a light step and a gay,
Touching a small harp as he walked,

To a lightsome roundelay.

" Now whither go you ?" said Willie ;

" And in good time may it be !"
" I'm wending down," said the minstrel youth,

" To the house of Elverslie."


" Then let me wend with you," said Willie,
'• And let me be your guide ;
For I know the shortest ways and best
Throughout the forest wide."

Then over the hills together they went,

And down into a glen ;
And there they met with Robin Hood

A-shootinff with his men.


Says Robin, " I love to shoot the deer
Among my merry men tall :

I love to drink the abbot's wine,
But song I love more than all.


" Come, give us a song, a greenwood song,

All under this forest-tree,
And you shall share in the booty good

That we get at Elverslie ;
For even now the abbot's gold

Doth call aloud for me."

Then the minstrel youth he touched his harp,

And sung so sweet and clear,
That Robin he leaned against a tree.

And held his breath to hear.

And the minstrel youth again he played,

And in such skilful wise.
That bold Robin Hood and all his men

They stood with tearful eyes.


When the minstrel youth had ceased to play,

Bold Robin he raised his eyen,
And said, " By my fay, thou minstrel,

I never heard harp like thine ;
I'll keep thee with me i' th' good greenwood,

And make thee a man of mine."

" Nay," said the youth, " in the good greenwood

With thee I cannot stay."
" Then ask a boon," said Robin Hood,

" And thou shalt have thy say."

" I want no boon," said the minstrel,

"I want no boon at all."
" Then this, thy boy, shall ask a boon,"

Said Robin, stout and tall ;
" And I swear to heaven to grant his boon,

Whether 't is great or small."

Then Willie he stepped forth in haste.

And fell upon one knee,
" A boon, a boon, bold Robin Hood !

This boon I ask of thee ;
That thou nor thy men should waste at all

The house of Elverslie."

" That now and for ever, both old and young,
Its goods and gear thou save ;
For the love of Christ, true Robin Hood,
This is the boon I crave."

" Oh ! oh !" says Robin, " is this your boon ?
Is this the boon I hear ?
By the soul of my mother, my merry men.
Our harping costs us dear.


" But it shull not be said that bold Robin Hood
From his oath did set him free :
So the jolly old monks may keep their gold,

And drink their wine for me ;
For thy word's sake, we will not touch
The house of Elverslie."

Then the minstrel youth and Willie they went

Away from bold Robin Hood ;
And at the close of day they entered

The path of Wyburn wood.

" Now rest this night with me," said Willie,
" At Wyburn rest this night ;
I'll be thy guide to Elverslie

As soon as the morning's light."

Said the minstrel youth, " How may this be ?

I pray thee make it clear ;
'Tis the fame of Willie o' Wyburn

That now hath brought me here.

" And if thou art Wyburn Willie,
As such thou seem'st to be,
I'll rest with thee till morning light.
Nor wend to Elverslie."

With that the mother opened the door,

The door she opened wide,
Saying, " Welcome to thee, my Willie,

And to this young man beside !"

The minstrel youth and Willie went in,

And closed to the door ;
And such a blithe eve as that was spent

At Wyburn never before.



How the Pilgrims halt at Elverslie, and how the Minstrel Youth gets
a Bond from Robin Hood.

When Willie upon the morrow went

To the house of Elverslie,
He found it as full as it could hold

Of the pilgrim company.

How strange it was, in that quiet place,

To hear such stir and din ;
The stabled steeds that stood without.

The bustle there was within !

There was not a monk at Elverslie

But sought the news to know ;
The abbot had guests on his parlor hearth,

The cook had guests also.

How happy was Willie o'Wyburn

To hear what they could say !
'Twas an easy task, and a short one,

That Willie read that day.

Nor was it till vespers all were done.

And the candles burned bright.
And the guests sat nodding in their chairs,

That Willie went home that night.

And scarcely Willie a mile had gone

Under the greenwood tree,
When the minstrel youth, with harp in hand.

Walked up to Elverslie.


And as he stood on the old door sill,

Under the archway tall,
He touched his harp, and his harpings came

To the guests withni the hall.

He touched his harp yet once again,

And sang with such delight.
That the sleepy guests raised up their heads,

And sat in their chairs upright.

The abbot himself looked round about,

And, " Bid yon harper in ;
For," said he, " the skill of yon harper

His supper this night shall win."

Then the minstrel youth stepped lightly in,
With a gay and graceful air ;

The abbot and every guest was glad
To see a youth so fair.

He bent himself with a noble grace ;
And, " By your leave," said he,
" I'll sing a song I made this day
All under the greenwood tree."

Then he touched his harp to a prelude soft,
And wild as a bird i' the wood ;

And he sang of Willie o' Wyburn,
And the outlaw, Robin Hood.

He sang of Wyburn Willie,

How far his fame was told ;
Yet how he was so meek and good,

Like a youthful saint of old.


He sang how Willie o' Wyburn

Went down upon his knee,
And saved from the spoiler, Robin Hood,

The house of Elverslie.

The abbot he looked round about,
His brow all pale with fear ;

And, " Is the outlaw, Robin Hood,"
Said he, " in the forest here ?"

Then the minstrel youth again went on.

And sang how Robin Hood
Had sworn, for Willie o' Wy burn's sake,

An oath within the wood :

" That neither he, nor his merry men,
Wherever they might be,
Should touch a hair of what belonged
To the house of Elverslie.

" That every soul from Elverslie
The forest-roads might take
Early or late, and should go free
For Willie o' Wyburn's sake.

" And this, for Willie o' Wyburn's sake,
Is the thing that he will do."
And with it he gave a parchment
That was sealed and signed too.

The abbot looked up with glad amaze,

And the very I'oof did ring
With the name of Wyburn Willie,

For whom was done this thing.


Then a cup of wine the abbot took,

And ffolden pieces nine ;
And said to the minstrel, " Take thou these,

For this good song of thine.

" But where is Willie o' Wyburn ?
I pray thee say in sooth."
And every guest spake loudly forth,
" Let 's see this wondrous youth ! "

The minstrel smiling took the gold.

And drank the wine so clear ;
And says he, " I '11 bring this Willie,

By early morning, here."


How Willie o' Wyhurn receives a Boon from the Abbot of Elverslie,
and how he has a Library of his own.

The dews hung sparkling on the grass,

And freshly blew the breeze,
And the morning smoke of Elverslie

Curled high above the trees.

Says the minstrel. " I shall tell thee naught :

The abbot for thee hath sent j
Perchance thy Latin was done amiss.

And thou 'It be sorely shcnt."

" Nay, nay," says Willie, " I fear not that,
Yet I am puzzled sore ;
For I never was. summoned to Elverslie
In such a way before."


" Who knows," replied the minstrel yeuth,

And hastened more his speed,
" But they some crabbed old books have got,

Which they want a clerk to read."

" Perchance," said Willie, " it may be so,
Perchance it so may be ;
Some wise, old book, which doth belong
To the pilgrim company."

When the twain set out from Wyburn,

'T was with the rising sun ;
And when they came to Elverslie

The matins just were done.

Amazed was Wyburn Willie,

As he came in, to see
The abbot, the monks, and the pilgrims all,

In the hall at Elverslie.

It must be a rare old book, indeed,

Thought Willie, but naught he said ;
It must be a rare old book, to bring

The abbot from out his bed !

Amazed was Willie, but more amazed
When he heard them all to say,
** Here's welcome to Wyburn Willie,
A welcome good this day !"

Then the abbot he prayed them all be still,

And let their welcomes wait ;
And he called up Willie o' Wyburn

To the board-head where he sate.


And, sa.]fi he, " For the deed which thou hast done,

This noble deed and good ;
For the saving the house of Elverslie

From the sf)oiIer, Robin Hood ;

" Now ask whatever thou wilt, my son,"

Said he, " and ask it soon ;
" Thou didst win thy boon from an outlaw,

Thou shalt win from me thy boon,"

Willie he lifted up his face,

As red as the rising day,
And said he, " I know not, holy sire.

What it is that now you say."

Said the abbot, " See this parchment.

Though the spelling is not good,
It secures the house of Elverslie

From the spoiler, Robin Hood.

" ' And all for Willie o' Wyburn's sake,' —

'Tis written, as thou mayst see, —
'Silh he is a clerk of great renown.

And hath claimed this boon of me.'

" 'T is all indited on goodly skin,
And sealed with a seal secure ;
And all men know, though an outlaw.
That he will keep it sure.

" Now, ask such boon as may thee list ;
And God will give thee grace
To ask aright, sith thee he chose
To save his holy place."



Willie looked down, and wiped away

A falling tear with his hand ;
And, " This," said he, " is of God's good grace,

And more than I understand.

" I owe to the house of Elverslie
Far more than I can repay ;
'Twas some good saint, not words of mine,
That moved him yesterday."

But, " The boon ! the boon !" they all 'gan cry ;

And the harper 'mong them all,
For joy he scarce could keep him still,

So loud as he did call.

^ " The boon ! the boon !" the abbot said,

*tr " Now name a boon, my son ;

And whate'er thy asking, by the rood.
It surely shall be done !"

Willie looked up with his pale face.
And, " Blessed be God !" said he ;
" Give unto me the lodge in the wood
That looketh over the lea.

" In the lodge in the wood lives no one now.
And it stands this house anear ;
It brought to the coffers of Elverslie
But seven marks by the year.

" My mother she loves that forest-lodge ;
She there was born and bred,
And there the white does used to come
To my grandsire to be fed."


" 'T is thine ! 't is thine !" said the abbot,
" 'T is thine for evermore !
With seven good acres of the lea,
And of forest land a score.

" The tame and the wild within the bounds.
And the fish within the river ;
The wood to fell, and the land to plough,
Shall be thine, and thine for ever !"

Some they clapped, and some they stamped,

And some did shout amain ;
And, " Well done, abbot of Elverslie !"

Ranjj o'er and o'er again.

" And, more than this," the aV^bot went on :
" For that tliy rents are small,
I will give thee twenty pounds by the year,
To buy thee books withal."

No answer made Willie o' Wyburn,
No answer but this made he j

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Online LibraryMary Botham HowittBallads and other poems .. → online text (page 4 of 11)