A BALLAD OF THE OLDEN TIME.
Around the castle turrets fiercely moaned the autumn blast,
And within the old lords daughter seemed dying, dying fast;
While o’er her couch in frenzied grief the stricken father bent,
And in deep sobs and stifled moans his anguish wild found vent.
“Oh cheer thee up, my daughter dear, my Maude, he softly said,
As tremblingly he strove to raise that young and drooping head;
’I’ll deck thee out in jewels rare in robes of silken sheen,
Till thou shalt be as rich and gay as any crowned queen.”
“Ah, never, never!” sighed the girl, and her pale cheek paler grew,
While marble brow and chill white hands were bathed in icy dew;
“Look in my face—there thou wilt read such hopes are folly all,
No garment shall I wear again, save shroud and funeral pall.”
“My Maude thou’rt wilful! Far away in lands beyond the sea
Are sunny climes, where winter ne’er doth wither flower or tree;
And there thou’lt journey with me, till I see thee smile once more,
And thy fair cheek wear the rose’s hue as in the days of yore.”
“Ah, no roses shall I gather beneath a summer sky,
Not for me such dreams, dear father, my end is drawing nigh;
One voyage is before me, ’tis no use to grieve or moan,
But that dark, fearful journey must I travel all alone.”
“My precious child! last of my race! why wilt thou grieve me so?
Why add by such sad words unto thy grey haired father’s woe?
Live—live, my pearl! my stricken dove! earth’s joys shall all be thine;
Whate’er thy wish or will through life, it also shall be mine.”
Fast coursed the diamond tear drops down that fair, though faded, cheek,
And she whispered, but so softly, one scarce could hear her speak:
“Ah! father, half those loving cares when summer bright was here
Would have kept thy daughter with thee for many a happy year.
“But, ah! thy heart was marble then, and to thy direst foe,
More stern, relentless anger thou couldst not, father, show.
What was my crime? The one I loved, not rich but nobly born,
Was loyal, true, on whom no man e’er looked with glance of scorn.
“He wooed me fairly, father dear, but thou did’st often swear
Thou’dst rather see me in my grave than bride to Hengist’s heir.
Reckless, despairing, he embarked upon the stormy main,
To seek an end to grief and care, nor sought he long in vain.
“Calm and untroubled sleeps he now beneath the salt sea brine,
And I rejoice to think how soon that sweet sleep shall be mine!”
No answer made the father but a low and grief-struck moan;
And silence reigned again throughout that chamber sad and lone.
Sudden the girl starts wildly, with bright and kindling eye,
Her cheek assumes a crimson tint like hue of sunset sky,
“Father! that voice, that rapid step, ah, me! they are well-known,
Hengist who comes from ocean’s deeps to claim me for his own!”
Say, does she rave? No. See yon form, with proud and gallant brow,
Bending above her, whisp’ring low, fond word and tender vow:
“Maude, my own love! no spectral form, no phantom’s at thy side,
But thy girlhood’s lover, now returned to claim thee as his bride.”
The story runs that love and youth o’er death the victory won,
And again did Maude, a happy wife, play ’neath the summer sun,
While the old lord, grateful to the Power that Hengist’s life had spared,
Henceforth in all his children’s bliss, hopes, sorrows, fully shared.