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When there the youthful Nortons met,
Nor wanted ’mid the pressing crowd
Lo, Francis comes,' there were who cried,
But now, his Child, with anguish pale, Upon the height walks to and fro; "Tis well that she hath heard the tale, Received the bitterness of woe : For she had hoped, had hoped and feared, Such rights did feeble nature claim ; And oft her steps had hither steered, Though not unconscious of self-blame ; For she her brother's charge revered, His farewell words ; and by the same, Yea by her brother's very name, Had, in her solitude, been cheered.
And so in Prison were they laid Oh hear me, hear me, gentle Maid, For I am come with power to bless, By scattering gleams, through your distress, Of a redeeming happiness. Me did a reverent pity move And privilege of ancient love; And, in your service, making bold, Entrance I gained to that strong-hold.
Beside the lonely watch-tower stood That grey-haired Man of gentle blood, Who with her Father had grown old In friendship ; rival hunters they, And fellow warriors in their day ; To Rylstone he the tidings brought ; Then on this height the Maid had sought, And, gently as he could, had told The end of that dire Tragedy, Which it had been his lot to see.
Your Father gave me cordial greeting ; But to his purposes, that burned Within him, instantly returned : He was commanding and entreating, And said—“We need not stop, my Son! Thoughts press, and time is hurrying on’And so to Francis he renewed His words, more calmly thus pursued.
To him the Lady turned ; “ You said That Francis lives, he is not dead ?”
“ Your noble brother hath been spared ; To take his life they have not dared ; On him and on his high endeavour The light of praise shall shine for ever! Nor did he (such Heaven's will) in vain His solitary course maintain ; Not vainly struggled in the might Of duty, seeing with clear sight ; He was their comfort to the last, Their joy till every pang was past.
Might this our enterprise have sped, Change wide and deep the Land had seen, A renovation from the dead, A spring-tide of immortal green : The darksome altars would have blazed Like stars when clouds are rolled away; Salvation to all eyes that gazed, Once more the Rood had been upraised To spread its arms, and stand for aye. Then, then-had I survived to see New life in Bolton Priory ; The voice restored, the eye of Truth Re-opened that inspired my youth ; To see her in her pomp arrayed— This Banner (for such vow I made) Should on the consecrated breast Of that same Temple have found rest :
I witnessed when to York they came What, Lady, if their feet were tied ; They might deserve a good Man's blame ; But marks of infamy and shameThese were their triumph, these their pride ;
I would myself have hung it high, Fit offering of glad victory !
A shadow of such thought remains To cheer this sad and pensive time; A solemn fancy yet sustains One feeble Being-bids me climb Even to the last-one effort more To attest my Faith, if not restore.
So cruel Sussex, unrestrained
Hear then,' said he, “while I impart, My Son, the last wish of my heart. The Banner strive thou to regain ; And, if the endeavour prove not vain, Bear it—to whom if not to thee Shall I this lonely thought consign ?Bear it to Bolton Priory, And lay it on Saint Mary's shrine ; To wither in the sun and breeze 'Mid those decaying sanctities. There let at least the gift be laid, The testimony there displayed ; Bold proof that with no selfish aim, But for lost Faith and Christ's dear name, I helmeted a brow though white, And took a place in all men's sight ; Yea offered up this noble Brood, This fair unrivalled Brotherhood, And turned away from thee, my Son ! And left—but be the rest unsaid, The name untouched, the tear unshed ;-My wish is known, and I have done : Now promise, grant this one request, This dying prayer, and be thou blest !'
These things, which thus had in the sight And hearing passed of Him who stood With Emily, on the Watch-tower height, In Rylstone's woeful neighbourhood, He told; and oftentimes with voice Of power to comfort or rejoice; For deepest sorrows that aspire, Go high, no transport ever higher. “ Yes—God is rich in mercy,” said The old Man to the silent Maid, “Yet, Lady! shines, through this black night, One star of aspect heavenly bright; Your Brother lives—he lives—is come Perhaps already to his home ; Then let us leave this dreary place.” She yielded, and with gentle pace, Though without one uplifted look, To Rylstone-hall her way she took.
Then Francis answered— Trust thy Son, For, with God's will, it shall be done !'
The pledge obtained, the solemn word Thus scarcely given, a noise was heard, And Officers appeared in state To lead the prisoners to their fate. They rose, oh! wherefore should I fear To tell, or, Lady, you to hear ! They rose-embraces none were givenThey stood like trees when earth and heaven Are calm ; they knew each other's worth, And reverently the Band went forth. They met, when they had reached the door, One with profane and harsh intent Placed there—that he might go before And, with that rueful Banner borne Aloft in sign of taunting scorn, Conduct them to their punishment :
Why comes not Francis ?- From the doleful City
To Emily in the yew-tree shade:
Why comes he not ?-for westward fast
He looked about like one betrayed : What hath he done? what promise made ? Oh weak, weak moment! to what end Can such a vain oblation tend, And he the Bearer?-Can he go Carrying this instrument of woe, And find, find any where, a right To excuse him in his country's sight! No; will not all men deem the change A downward course, perverse and strange? Here is it;-but how? when? must she, The unoffending Emily, Again this piteous object see?
So forward with a steady will He went, and traversed plain and hill; And up the vale of Wharf his way Pursued ; and, at the dawn of day, Attained a summit whence his eyes Could see the Tower of Bolton rise. There Francis for a moment's space Made halt-but hark! a noise behind Of horsemen at an eager pace ! He heard, and with misgiving mind. -"Tis Sir George Bowes who leads the Band : They come, by cruel Sussex sent; Who, when the Nortons from the hand Of death had drunk their punishment, Bethought him, angry and ashamed, How Francis, with the Banner claimed As his own charge, had disappeared, By all the standers-by revered. His whole bold carriage (which had quelled Thus far the Opposer, and repelled All censure, enterprise so bright That even bad men had vainly striven Against that overcoming light) Was then reviewed, and prompt word given, That to what place soever fled He should be seized, alive or dead.
Such conflict long did he maintain, Nor liberty nor rest could gain : His own life into danger brought By this sad burden--even that thought, Exciting self-suspicion strong Swayed the brave man to his wrong. And how-unless it were the sense Of all-disposing Providence, Its will unquestionably shownHow has the Banner clung so fast To a palsied, and unconscious hand; Clung to the hand to which it passed Without impediment? And why But that Heaven's purpose might be known Doth now no hindrance meet his eye, No intervention, to withstand Fulfilment of a Father's prayer Breathed to a Son forgiven, and blest When all resentments were at rest, And life in death laid the heart bare ?Then, like a spectre sweeping by, Rushed through his mind the prophecy Of utter desolation made
The troop of horse have gained the height Where Francis stood in open sight. They hem him round—“Behold the proof," They cried, “the Ensign in his hand ! He did not arm, he walked aloof! For why ?- to save his Father's land ;Worst Traitor of them all is he, A Traitor dark and cowardly!”
“I am no Traitor," Francis said, “Though this unhappy freight I bear; And must not part with. But beware;Err not, by hasty zeal misled, Nor do a suffering Spirit wrong, Whose self-reproaches are too strong!” At this he from the beaten road Retreated towards a brake of thorn, That like a place of vantage showed ; And there stood bravely, though forlorn.
Bearing the body on a bier ;
In self-defence with warlike brow
But Emily hath raised her head, And is again disquieted ; She must behold !—so many gone, Where is the solitary One? And forth from Rylstone-hall stepped she,To seek her Brother forth she went, And tremblingly her course she bent Toward Bolton's ruined Priory. She comes, and in the vale hath heard The funeral dirge ;-she sees the knot Of people, sees them in one spotAnd darting like a wounded bird She reached the grave, and with her breast Upon the ground received the rest,The consummation, the whole ruth And sorrow of this final truth !
• Powers there are That touch each other to the quick-in modes Which the gross world no sense hath to perceive, No soul to dream of.'
Proudly the Horsemen bore away The Standard ; and where Francis lay There was he left alone, unwept, And for two days unnoticed slept. For at that time bewildering fear Possessed the country, far and near; But, on the third day, passing by One of the Norton Tenantry Espied the uncovered Corse; the Man Shrunk as he recognised the face, And to the nearest homesteads ran And called the people to the place. -How desolate is Rylstone-hall ! This was the instant thought of all ; And if the lonely Lady there Should be; to her they cannot bear This weight of anguish and despair. So, when upon sad thoughts had prest Thoughts sadder still, they deemed it best That, if the Priest should yield assent And no one hinder their intent, Then, they, for Christian pity's sake, In holy ground a grave would make; And straightway buried he should be In the Church-yard of the Priory.
Thou Spirit, whose angelic hand
A part, some little space, was made The grave where Francis must be laid. In no confusion or neglect This did they,—but in pure respect That he was born of gentle blood ; And that there was no neighbourhood Of kindred for him in that ground: So to the Church-yard they are bound,
'Tis done ;-despoil and desolation O'er Rylstone's fair domain have blown ; Pools, terraces, and walks are sown With weeds; the bowers are overthrown, Or have given way to slow mutation, While, in their ancient habitation The Norton name hath been unknown. The lordly Mansion of its pride
And so,beneath a mouldered tree, A self-surviving leafless oak By unregarded age from stroke Of ravage saved-sate Emily. There did she rest, with head reclined, Herself most like a stately flower, (Such have I seen) whom chance of birth Hath separated from its kind, To live and die in a shady bower, Single on the gladsome earth,
Is stripped; the ravage hath spread wide
When, with a noise like distant thunder, A troop of deer came sweeping by; And, suddenly, behold a wonder! For One, among those rushing deer, A single One, in mid career Hath stopped, and fixed her large full eye Upon the Lady Emily; A Doe most beautiful, clear-white, A radiant creature, silver-bright!
Thus checked, a little while it stayed ;
And she hath wandered, long and far, Beneath the light of sun and star; Hath roamed in trouble and in grief, Driven forward like a withered leaf, Yea like a ship at random blown To distant places and unknown. But now she dares to seek a haven Among her native wilds of Craven; Hath seen again her Father's roof, And put her fortitude to proof; The mighty sorrow hath been borne, And she is thoroughly forlorn : Her soul doth in itself stand fast, Sustained by memory of the past And strength of Reason; held above The infirmities of mortal love; Undaunted, lofty, calm, and stable, And awfully impenetrable.
Oh, moment ever blest! O Pair Beloved of Heaven, Heaven's chosen care, This was for you a precious greeting; And may it prove a fruitful meeting ! Joined are they, and the sylvan Doe Can she depart? can she forego The Lady, once her playful peer, And now her sainted Mistress dear? And will not Emily receive This lovely chronicler of things Long past, delights and sorrowings? Lone Sufferer! will not she believe The promise in that speaking face; And welcome, as a gift of grace, The saddest thought the Creature brings ?