Mary Botham Howitt.

Ballads and other poems .. online

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Of a long line of pride :
My father took him for his son ;
He was to us allied.



" And he within our house was bred,
From the same books in youth we read,
Our teachers were the same ; and he
Was as a brother unto me ;

A brother ! — no, I never knew
How warm a brother's love might be ;

But dearer every year he grew.

" Love was our earliest, only life ;
Twin forms that had one heart
Were we, and for each other lived,
And never thought to part.

" My father had him trained for war ;

He went to Naples, where he fought :
And then the Count Lamberti came,

And me in marriage sought ;
He from inj father asked my hand,
And I knew naught of what they planned.

" I was no party in the thing.
Why he was ever at my side
I knew not ; nor why, when we rode,
My father bade me with him ride.

" No, no ! And when Lamberti spoke
Of love, I misbelieving heard ;
And strangely gazed into his face,
Appalled at every word.

" It seemed to me as if there fell
From some old saint a tone of hell ;
As if that hero heart of pride,
Which my Giusepp' had sanctified
Among the heroes of old time,
Before me blackened stood with crime.


" That night my father sought my room,
And, furious betwixt rage and pride,
He bade me on an early day
Prepare to be Lamberti's bride.

" I thought my father too was mad,
Yet silently I let him speak ;
I had no power for word or sign,
I felt the blood forsake my cheek.

" And my heart beat with desperate pain,
The sting of rage was at its core ;
There was a tumult in my brain,
And I fell senseless on the floor.

*' At length, upon my knees, I prayed
My father to regard the vow

Which to Giuseppe I had made.
Oh Heaven ! his furious brow,

His curling lip of sneering scorn.
Like fiends they haunt me now.

" Ay, spite my vows, they made me wed.
Young as I was in years ;
At the dagger's point they married me,
Amid my prayers and tears.

" Our palace was at Tivoli,

An ancient place of Roman pride,
Girt round with a sepulchral wood.
Wherein a ruined temple stood ;

And there, whilst I was yet a bride,
I saw Giuseppe at my side.


" My own Giuseppe ! He had come
From Naples with a noble train ;
He came to claim me for his wife :
Would God we ne'er had met again !

" Lamberti's speech still harsher grew,
And darker still his spirit's gloom ;
At length, all suddenly, one day
He hurried me to Rome.

" I had a dream, three times it came :
I saw as plainly as by day
A horrid thing, the bloody place
Where young Giuseppe lay.

" I saw them in that ancient wood,
I heard him wildly call on God ;
I saw him stabbed ; I saw him dead
Upon the bloody sod.

" I knew the murderers, they were two ;

I saw them with my sleeping eye ;
I knew their voices stern and grim ;
I saw them plainly murder him

In the old wood at Tivoli.
Three times the dream was sent to me,

It could not be a lie.

" I knew it could not be a lie ;

I knew his precious blood was spilt ;
I saw the murderer day by day
Dwell calmly in his guilt.

" No wonder that a frenzy came ;

At midnight from my bed I leapt,
I snatched a dagger in my rage,
I stabbed him as he slept.


" I siiy, I stabbed him as he slept.
It was a horrid deed of blood ;
But then I knew that he had slain
Giuseppe in the wood.

" I told my father of my dream ;

I watched him every word I spake ;
He tried to laugh my dream to scorn,
And yet I saw his body quake.

" They fetched Giuseppe from the wood,
And a great funeral feast they had ;
They buried Count Lambcrli too.
And said that I was mad.

" I was not mad, and yet I bore
A curse that was no less ;
And many, many years went on
Of gloomy wretchedness.

" I saw my father, how he grew
An old man ere his prime ;
I knew the secret penance-pain
He bore for that accursed crime.

" I too, there is a weight of sin

Upon my soul, — it will not hence :
'T is therefore that my life is given
To one long penitence."





A LOWLY child was Carlovan, a child of ten years old ;

His eye was dark and thoughtful, his spirit kind and bold.

No wealth had he, young Carlovan, save his father's book of

And the golden ring, of little worth, which his dead mother ware.
He had no home, young Carlovan, an orphan child was he ;
And yet no rich man said to him, " Come, be a son to me."
There was no one to counsel him, no friend to hear his moan ;
And Carlovan rose up and went into the world alone.

" For the love of God," said Carlovan, to a rich priest whom

he met,
" Give me an alms, for it is night, and I am fasting yet !"
The haughty priest looked down on him, with hard, unpitying

The haughty priest went on his way and made him no reply.
For seven days on went Carlovan, through the wild wood and the

And at night he laid him down to rest among the herded deer.
Upon the eighth young Carlovan saw, riding by the way,
A warrior on an armed steed, in glittering, proud array.


A prayer sj)rang ready to his lips, and forth he stretched his

But then lie knew that man of blood, the spoiler of his land ;
And to his dark and thoughtful eye the human tears did start,
He turned without a word away, and sadder grew his heart.
Then at a peasant's lowly door he made his humble prayer ;
But the peasant swore with bitter words that he had naught to

Next at a castle's gate he prayed, where a hundred vassals wait ;
But they called him thief and beggar loon, and drove him from

the gate.

A heavy heart had Carlovan, and the tears were in his eye ;
Up to the green hill-top he went, and laid him down to die.
But first he prayed a holy prayer, to purify his mind,
And wished some blessed company might take him from mankind.
With an earnest heart prayed Carlovan ; and, when his prayer

was said,
The fair round moon came up the sky, the stars paled overhead,
And he heard beneath the green hill-top a low sad voice that said,
" Oh, I have not a book to read, not a page whereon to pore ;
1 have read all these from first to last, and there are now no

more !"
" Whoever thou art," said Carlovan, " to me thy footsteps bend :
I have a book of goodly lore which I to thee will lend."
With that up stepped a little old man, of mild, sagacious look.
And bending forth, with eager haste, he seized upon the book.
** Now thank thee, child, for this new book," the old man grave-
ly said,
"And may each blessing in this book be showered upon thy
head !"

Again by himself sits Carlovan on the green hill-top so lone,


The night-wind stirred the long grey moss on many an ancient

The driving clouds came up the sky, the yellow moon grew pale,
And just below the lonesome hill he heard a feeble wail.
*' Oh ! she is gone !" it said, " is gone ! we may not her regain ;
She must the woes of life endure, must suffer mortal pain ;
Naught but a Christian mother's ring can bring her back again !"
" Whoe'er ye be," cried Carlovan, " here let your footsteps

I have my Christian mother's ring, which I to you will lend."
With that he saw, all round the hill, come thronging shapes of

More radiant than the opening flowers, or than the day more

They were not creatures of the earth, too fair for human clay ;
As angels they were beautiful, yet had not wings as they.
" Now thank thee, thank thee, for thy ring," they cried with

voices mild,
And gently raised him by the hand, and stroked his hair, and

" We will repay thee, child," they said : " now follow where we

And they led him to a far-off place, but where he did not know.
It was no place upon the earth, nor was it in the air ;
Some far-off place of happiness, and yet they soon were there.
They made him eat of wheaten cakes, of fruits delicious, seven ;
And as he ate and drank he thought that he had passed to

They bathed him in a silver bath of water cool and sweet ;
They poured rich odor on his hair, and dews upon his feet ;
They laid him on a silken bed of down so soft and deep ;
And dreams that were like paradise kept with him in his sleep.



How long he dwelt in tliat fair place is not for me to say,
But the time went on in happiness as the passing of a day.
By the old man's side sits Carlovan, and on a book doth pore ;
" All books," the old man said, " can teach, some less and others

more ;
" But this book which I had from thee contains the soothest lore.
I can teach naught, my Carlovan, which here thou wilt not find ;
All doctrine of sublimest faith is here, to fit thy mind
For conquest over self and sin, for service of thy kind !"
Then opened he the page which told how Christ high heaven

And for the sake of human sin a human semblance took ;
And how he lived and how he died, he read from out the book.
" Naught higher can I teach than this," said he, the old man

"And the book which thou to me didst lend to thee I now restore.
Go forth a champion for God's poor ; be strong, and bear in

That wisdom's choicest, noblest lore is by affliction taught."
They put on him the golden ring, and the simple Carlovan
No longer is a little child, but a tall and fair young man.
" Thanks for thy ring," they said ; " and now go forth and have

no fear.
Thou hast a better wealth than gold, which never thief comes

near ;
The uses of adversity have kept thy spirit clear."
They gave him gifts of highest price, an upright heart of truth,
The wisdom of the wisest age with the ardency of youth.

He stood once more on the green hill-top, upon a morning


And many a year and more had passed, though it seemed but

Now, who is brave like Carlovan, who brave like him and good ?

He hath redeemed the groaning land from that fierce man of

" Thou shah be king, brave Carlovan, who art so bold and true."

But he put the proffered crown aside, and to the hill withdrew :

And there, among the mossy stones, he knelt awhile apart.

And with his God communed in prayer, and with his upright

" I may not be your king," he said, " for this I was not sent ;

There is another work for me, a nobler government."

Now, who is wise like Carlovan ? A learned man is he ;

And they marvel whence he got his lore without a priest's de-

And far and wide throughout the land good Carlovan doth go,

To preach the love of Jesus Christ both unto high and low.

The haughty priest bowed down to him who scorned him so be-

And from the life of Carlovan learnt humbler, better lore.

He blessed the poor, he felt for them who had been poor as they;

And the land that once was desolate, like Eden round him lay.

All loved him as a long-tried friend ; all blessed the life he led ;

And little children left their play to hear the words he said.

Through long, long years lived Carlovan, uncaught by worldly
snare ;

But ever was the lone hill-top his favorite place of prayer.

And when he died they buried him beneath the hill-top stone.

Please God, a second Carlovan upon the earth were known !





One summer day, in time of peace,

With a hundred men at his side,
Earl Walter rode to a holy house,

Where the gate stood open wide.

They raised a shout as they entered in,

They laughed and loudly sung,
Till the silent courts of the holy house

With the lawless revel rung.

They turned out the mules from the stables warm.

They laughed at many a jest,
As they fed their steeds with the provender

Which the holy priest had blessed.

They entered the hall witli mailed feet ;

And a wild, discordant din
Came to the ear of the abbess old.

As those ruffians entered in.


By an evil chance, it happed, that morn,

That the aged priest had gone,
To meet the prior, at break of day,

In the town of Abingdon ;
And the holy house had no defence,

And the nuns were all alone.

In pallid fear they hid themselves,

When they saw the earl was there ;
For they knew he was a robber rude

Who any deed would dare,
Because the king, a thriftless man,

Had of the pillage share.

They hid themselves where'er they might.

In chests and chimneys too.
All but the abbess brave, who stay'd

To note what would ensue.

She heard them pile on the mighty logs,

And blow up a plenteous fire ;
And she wished that she might see each one

In brimstone flame expire.

From the larder she heard them fetch each dish

Whereon she loved to dine.
And set on the table fowl and fish.

The venison and the chine ;
And she wished the venom of toads and asps

Had savored those meats so fine.

She heard them fetch up the good old wine,

She heard them pour it out.
And she heard how the cups of good old wine

Went circling round about.


She heard them pledge Earl Walter's name,

As louder mirth begun ;
And she wished there were poison in the cup,

To poison them every one.

She heard Earl Walter bid his men

Go search where the wealth was stored,

And brincr in the chalice and candlesticks
To grace that banquet board.

She heard them bring in the candlesticks.

And set them all in a row,
And set down the chalice of good red gold,

And the golden plates also ;
And she prayed to the saints, that this sacrilege

Miarht hasten his overthrow.

She heard them pour unholy wine

Into the holy cup,
Then pledge the nuns of our Lady's shrine.

Before they drank it up ;

And next she heard them name her name,
While drunken oaths they sware :

The angry woman had heard enough
Of their ill-doings there.

The abbess was withered, old, and lean,

Her hand was bony and thin,
And she waved it o'er her palsied head,

As the hall she entered in.

Earl Walter he was a bold young man,

As brave as man could be,
But he looked agliast a moment's space,

And so did his company.


" Thou hast done a deed, base earl," she said,
" And the king, thy master, too,
An evil deed which the judgment-day
Will sorely make ye rue."

Earl Walter anon regained his mood.

And took up a cup of wine,
Saying, " F troth there were goodly th in gs

In this old house of thme."

Saying, " 'T were a sin, thou lady fair,

If the nuns be fair like thee.
That ye never before this day were seen

Of me and my company."

" Thou heathen dog !" said the abbess then,
" Thou shalt rue that ever we met ;
For the lip that never spake curse in vain.
On thee a curse shall set."

Then she bamied him here and banned him there.

Wherever his foot should stray ;
And on him and all who sprang from him

An awful curse did lay.

And, lastly, said she : " I curse this man

In the field ; at the bridal feast ;
And death and dishonor shall be with him,

When he wots of them the least.

" All that he loves shall pass from him,
The young, the kind, the brave ;
And old — the last of all liis race —
Shall he go down to the grave."



Earl AV'alter went to the battle-field,

But sickness laid him low ;
And every knight had won him fame

Ere he had struck a blow.

Earl Walter wedded the fairest dame

In all the kingdom wide ;
She bore him a son and daughters three,

And then she drooped and died.

His son was a fierce and desperate man.

And died a death of shame :
The sorest woe Earl Walter knew

Was the blot upon his name.

His daughters all were beautiful,
Their souls were pure and true.

Earl Walter wept when he looked on them,
And his sin did deeply rue.

The first, she wedded an aged lord,

A cankered soul had he,
Though rich in land, and rich in gold,

And noble of pedigree.

But hard was that young lady's fate,
Yet she told her grief to none.

But drooped and died of silent woe,
Ere the first twelve months were gone.


The second, she loved a gentleman

Below her own degree,
A brave man, though not a golden piece

Nor a rood of land had he.

" Thou shalt not wed thee to my shame,"
Said the true young knight and bold ;

" I will cross the sea and gain me fame,
Shall serve instead of gold.

" I will bring me back a noble name.
Shall serve instead of land ;
Then, from thy proud sire, will I claim
Thy fair and gentle hand."

He crossed the sea and he won him fame
By his good broad sword and lance ;

He won him fame, but he lost his life
In the bloody fields of France.

Woe, woe to the gentle Isabel,

That she lived to see the day !
For the tidings came like the lightning's stroke,

And her senses went away.

For many weary months she lived

A mournful, moping thing ;
Oft sitting 'neath the forest trees, *

Or by some sylvan spring ;

And singing of the wars of France,

And of the gallant men
Who, fighting for their ladies' sakes.

Would soon come back again.


And never did her sense return,

Until the day she died ;
When her young sister Margaret

Sate singing by her side.

Then, gazing with her thoughtful eyes,
Her slumbering senses woke ;

And she died in Christ, the purest heart
That ever true love broke.

Three years went on, and then a knight
Sought gentle Margaret's hand ;

A knight renowned for gallant deeds,
And rich in gold and land.

He loved fair Margaret in the halls,

He loved her in the bower ;
And their young ardent passion grew.

As grows the summer flower.

All gazed on them with joy and pride ;

He brave as she was fair ;
Again Earl Walter's soul was glad

In looking on that pair.

But, when the bridal mom was come,
Dim grew each look of pride ;

And musing went the wedding guests,
And strove their thoughts to hide.

For some had dreamed a dismal dream,

Some seen a fearful sign,
Betokening that the bridal bread

Was baked for funeral wine.


'Twas in the cheerful month of May,

White was the flowering thorn,
And every sunny slope was green

With young blades of the corn,
When the feast was set, and the guests were met,

Upon the marriage morn.

" S\veet Margaret, haste !" the bridegroom said,
" In the hall thy maidens stand ;
The priest is at the altar now,
And the book is in his hand."

Fair Margaret yet in her chamber sate.

Before her mirror fair.
Alone, save for the aged nurse,

Who stood behind her chair.

And aye she combed her long, dark hair.

And laid the graceful curls.
And braided 'mong the drooping locks

White roses wreathed with pearls.

" Now, nurse," said she, " come to my side,
Thou wont so glad to be,
Oh, weep not thus behind my chair ;
My benison bide with thee !

" Tell me once more, before I leave
My pleasant home for aye.
The last words that my mother spake.
On death-bed when she lay.

" Come, talk about my sisters dear ;
We all played at thy knee ;
We all were dear, and thou wast kind
To all, but most to me.


" Thou hast been a mother unto me,
My blessing on thee bide !"
The old nurse kissed her ladv's cheek.
And wiped her tears aside.

But now, beside the chamber stair,
The bridegroom spake again :
" Come, dearest Margaret ; why so long
Delay the wedding train ?"

Fair Margaret, in her wedding dress

As pure as the virgin snow,
Was mounted upon a milk-white steed,

That proudly moved, and slow.

And slowly she rode to Our Lady's church,

With an earl on either side ;
And four and twenty maidens fair,

To wait upon the bride.

There were garlands hung from tree to tree,
And flowers strewn all the way ;

And people came from the country round
To gaze on the rich array.

That day there was song and revelry,

Loud mirth and noble cheer ;
The next, alas ! there was wail and woe,

For the bride lay on her bier.

They laid her upon her bridal bed,

Like marble, deadly pale ;
With the wedding rmg upon her hand.

In her long white marriage veil.


The youthful bridegroom by her knelt,

In woe none miglit beguile ;
And, after that sad morning broke,

Was never seen to smile.

For her soul's peace he gave his lands,

His goods to the poor he gave ;
And died a knight of the Holy Cross,

Beside the Jordan's wave.

Earl Walter passed both out and in,

With a firm unfaltering tread ;
But his brow grew wan, his cheek grew thin.

And his eye as heavy as lead.

He met the guests, he sate at meat ;

But his was a joyless hall ;
The hawk was never off the perch,

The steed from out the stall.

His was a cureless grief of soul ;

He slowly wore away,
Like an oak upon the rifted rock.

Long struggling with decay.

At length, when he was worn and bowed,

With grief and years grown old.
It chanced that hib tale unto the king '

By a noble kniglit was told.

The king he sent that noble knight

Unto the pope at Rome,
To humbly crave his holiness

To abrogate hia doom.


The pope gave absolution good :
And this to him was read,

As in his ninetieth year he lay
Upon his dying bed.

Earl Walter raised his aged eyes,
And gave great praise to Heaven ;

And by this token all men knew
That his sin had been forgiven.




A lover's lay.

Gentle, happy Beatrice,

Visioned fair before me,
How can it a wonder be

That many so adore thee ?

Old and young, and great and wise,
Set their love upon thee ;

And, if gold thy heart could win,
Gold long since had won thee.

Social, cheerful Beatrice,

Like a plenteous river
Is the current of thy joy.

Flowing on for ever.

Many call themselves thy friends ;

Thou art loved of many ;
And, where'er the fair are met,

Fairest thou of any.


Pious, duteous Beatrice,

All good angels move thee ;

Meek and gentle as a saint.
Most for this we love thee.

I can see thee going forth

Innocent and lowly,
Knowing not how good thou art,

Like an angel hol«v :

See thee at thy father's side,
In thy wondrous beauty,

Gladdening that benign old man
With cheerful love and duty.

I can see his happy smile

As he gazes on thee ;
I can feel the boundless love

That he showers upon thee.

What a happy house thou mak'st.
Singing in thy gladness

Snatches of delicious song.
Full of old love-sadness I

How I sit and hold my breath
When the air is winging,

From some far-off pleasant room,
Breathings of thy singing !

How I listen for thy foot,
I know it stepping airy,

On the stair or overhead,
Like a lightsome fairy !


What a happy house it is

Where thou hast thy dwelling !

There, love, joy, and kindliness
Evermoi'e are welling.

Every one within the house
Loves to talk about thee ;

What an altered place it were,
Beatrice, without thee !

I can see thee when I list.

In thy beauty shining,
Leaning from the casement ledge

Where the rose is twining.

I can see thee looking down,
The little linnet feeding ;

Or, sitting quietly apart.

Some sweet volume reading.

Would I were beside thee.
The pages turning over,

I'd find some cunning word or two


That should my heart discover !

I would not heed thy laughter wild,
Laugh on, I could withstand thee ;

The printed book should tell my tale,
And thou shouldst understand me.

I know thy arts, my Beatrice,

So lovely, so beguiling,
The mockery of thy merry wit,

The witchery of thy smiling.



I know thee for a siren strong,

That smites all hearts with blindness,

And I might tremble for myself,
But for thy loving-kindness.

But for the days of by-gone years,
When I was as thy brother ;

Ah ! we, my faithful Beatrice,
Were meant for one another.

I'll straightway up this very day.
And ask thee of thy father :

And all the blessings life can give
In wedded life we'll gather !




Men build to thee no shrine,
Yet every holy place is filled with thee ;
Dim groves and mountain-tops alike are thine,
Spirit of Poetry !
Island and ocean-peak ;
Seas where the keel of ships shall never go ;
Cots, palaces, and graves ; whate'er can speak
Of human love or woe ;

All are the shrines where thou
Broodest with power, not visible, yet strong ;
Like odor, from the rose, we know not how
Borne to the sense along.
Oh ! spirit which art pure.
Mighty and holy, and of God art sprung ;
Which teachest to aspire and to endure,
As ne'er taught human tongue ;

What art thou ? A glad spirit.
Sent down, like Hope, when Eden was no more,
From the high heavenly place thou didst inherit,

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Online LibraryMary Botham HowittBallads and other poems .. → online text (page 7 of 11)