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Poem by Fitz-Greene Halleck

Alnwick Castle

Home of the Percy's high-born race,
   Home of their beautiful and brave,
Alike their birth and burial-place,
   Their cradle and their grave!
Still sternly o'er the castle gate
Their house's Lion stands in state,
   As in his proud departed hours;
And warriors frown in stone on high,
And feudal banners "flout the sky"
   Above his princely towers.

A gentle hill its side inclines,
   Lovely in England's fadeless green,
To meet the quiet stream which winds
   Through this romantic scene
As silently and sweetly still,
As when, at evening, on that hill,
   While summer's wind blew soft and low,
Seated by gallant Hotspur's side,
His Katherine was a happy bride,
   A thousand years ago.

Gaze on the Abbey's ruined pile:
   Does not the succoring ivy, keeping
Her watch around it, seem to smile,
   As o'er a loved one sleeping?
One solitary turret gray
   Still tells, in melancholy glory,
The legend of the Cheviot day,
   The Percy's proudest border story.
That day its roof was triumph's arch;
   Then rang, from aisle to pictured dome,
The light step of the soldier's march,
   The music of the trump and drum;
And babe, and sire, the old, the young,
And the monk's hymn, and minstrel's song,
And woman's pure kiss, sweet and long,
   Welcomed her warrior home.

Wild roses by the Abbey towers
   Are gay in their young bud and bloom:
They were born of a race of funeral-flowers
That garlanded, in long-gone hours,
   A templar's knightly tomb.
He died, the sword in his mailed hand,
On the holiest spot of the Blessed land,
   Where the Cross was damped with his dying breath,
When blood ran free as festal wine,
And the sainted air of Palestine
   Was thick with the darts of death.

Wise with the lore of centuries,
What tales, if there be "tongues in trees,"
   Those giant oaks could tell,
Of beings born and buried here;
Tales of the peasant and the peer,
Tales of the bridal and the bier,
   The welcome and farewell,
Since on their boughs the startled bird
First, in her twilight slumbers, heard
   The Norman's curfew-bell!

I wandered through the lofty halls
   Trod by the Percys of old fame,
And traced upon the chapel walls
   Each high, heroic name,
From him who once his standard set
Where now, o'er mosque and minaret,
   Glitter the Sultan's crescent moons;
To him who, when a younger son,
Fought for King George at Lexington,
   A major of dragoons.

That last half stanza---it has dashed
   From my warm lip the sparkling cup;
The light that o'er my eyebeam flashed,
   The power that bore my spirit up
Above this bank-note world---is gone;
And Alnwick's but a market town,
And this, alas! its market day,
And beasts and borderers throng the way;
Oxen and bleating lambs in lots,
Northumbrian boors and plaided Scots,
   Men in the coal and cattle line;
From Teviot's bard and hero land,
From royal Berwick's beach of sand,
From Wooller, Morpeth, Hexham, and

These are not the romantic times
So beautiful in Spenser's rhymes,
   So dazzling to the dreaming boy:
Ours are the days of fact, not fable,
Of knights, but not of the round table,
   Of Bailie Jarvie, not Rob Roy:
'Tis what "our President," Monroe,
   Has called "the era of good feeling:"
The Highlander, the bitterest foe
To modern laws, has felt their blow,
Consented to be taxed, and vote,
And put on pantaloons and coat,
   And leave off cattle-stealing:
Lord Stafford mines for coal and salt,
The Duke of Norfolk deals in malt,
   The Douglass in red herrings;
And noble name and cultured land,
Palace, and park, and vassal-band,
Are powerless to the notes of hand
   Of Rothschild or the Barings.

The age of bargaining, said Burke,
Has come: to-day the turbaned Turk
(Sleep, Richard of the lion heart!
Sleep on, nor from your cerements start)
   Is England's friend and fast ally;
The Moslem tramples on the Greek,
   And on the Cross and altar-stone,
   And Christendom looks tamely on,
And hears the Christian maiden shriek,
   And sees the Christian father die;
And not a sabre-blow is given
For Greece and fame, for faith and heaven,
   By Europe's craven chivalry.

You'll ask if yet the Percy lives
   In the armed pomp of feudal state?
The present representatives
   Of Hotspur and his "gentle Kate,"
Are some half-dozen serving-men
In the drab coat of William Penn;
   A chambermaid, whose lip and eye,
And cheek, and brown hair, bright and curling,
   Spoke Nature's aristocracy;
And one, half groom, half seneschal,
Who bowed me through court, bower, and hall,
From donjon-keep to turret wall,
   For ten-and-sixpence sterling.

Fitz-Greene Halleck

Poem Theme: Castles

Fitz-Greene Halleck's other poems:
  1. Red Jacket
  2. Magdalen
  3. To ****
  4. The Field of the Grounded Arms, Saratoga
  5. Connecticut

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