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Poem by George Henry Borrow


Scenes


Observe ye not yon high cliff's brow,
Up which a wanderer clambers slow,
'T is by a hoary ruin crown'd,
Which rocks when shrill winds whistle round;
That is an ancient knightly hold,-
Alas! it droops, deserted, cold;
And sad and cheerless seems to gaze,
Back, back, to yon heroic days,
When youthful Kemps, completely arm'd,
And lovely maids around it swarm'd.

You, in the tower, a hole may see;
A window there has ceas'd to be.
From that once lean'd a damsel bright,
In evening's red and fading light,
And star'd intently down the way,
Up which should come her lover gay:
But, time it flies on rapid wing-
Far off a church is towering,
Within it stand two marble stones,
That rest above the lovers' bones.
But see, the wanderer, with pain,
Has reach'd the pile he wish'd to gain;
Whilst Sol, behind the ruin'd walls,
Down into sacred nature falls.

See, there, two hostile nobles fight,
With tiger-rage and giant-might.
There's seen no smoke, there's heard no shot,
For guns and powder yet were not.
'T was custom then, when foemen warr'd,
To win or lose with spear and sword:
A wild heroic song they yell,
And each the other seeks to fell.
Oft, oft, her ownself to destroy,
Her own hand nature does employ.
There casts the hill up fire-flakes,
And Earth's gigantic body quakes:
There, lightnings through the high blue flash,
And ocean's billows wildly dash:
There, men 'gainst men their muscles strain,
And deal out death, and wounds, and pain.
O Nature! to thyself show less
Of hate, and more of tenderness.

How dusky is the air around;
We are no more above the ground;
But, down we wend within the hill,
Whose springs our ears with hissings fill.
See, there, how rich the ruddy gold
Winds snakeways, 'midst the clammy mould
And hard green stone. By torches' ray,
The harvest there men mow away.
But, see ye not yon gath'ring cloud,
Which 'gainst them cometh paley proud;
That holds the spirit of the hill,
Who brings death in its hand so chill:
If down they do not quickly fall,
Most certainly 't will slay them all;
For sorely wrathful is its mood,
Because they break its solitude:
Because its treasure off they bear,
And fling light o'er its gloomy lair.
'T is white, and Kobbold is the name
Which it from oldest days does claim.

Now, back at once into time we go,
For many a hundred years, I trow.
A gothic chamber salutes your sight:
A taper gleams feebly through the night;
A ghostly man by the board you see,
With his hand to his temples muses he:
Parchments, with age discolour'd and dun;
Ancient shields all written upon;
Tree-bark, bearing ciphers half defac'd;
Stones with Runes and characters grac'd;
Things of more worth than ye are aware,
On the mighty table are pil'd up there.
He gazes now in exstatic trance
Through the casement, out into nature's expanse.
Whene'er we sit at the lone midnight,
And stare out into the dubious light,
Whilst the pallid moon is peering o'er
Ruin'd cloister and crumbling tower,
Feelings so wondrous strange come o'er us;
The past, and the future, arise before us;
The present fadeth, unmark'd, away
In the garb of insignificancy.
He gazes up into nature's height,
The noble man with his eye so bright;
He gazes up to the starry skies,
Whither, sooner or later, we hope to rise;
And now he takes in haste the pen,
And the spirit of Oldom flows from it amain;
The scatter'd Goth-songs he changes unto
An Epic which maketh each bosom to glow.
Thanks to the old Monk, toiling thus-
They call him Saxo Grammaticus.

An open field before you lies,
A wind-burst o'er its bosom sighs,
Now all is still, all seems asleep;
'Midst of the field there stands a heap,
Upon the heap stand Runic stones,
Thereunder rest gigantic bones.
From Arild's time, that heap stands there,
But now 't is till'd with utmost care,
In order that its owner may
Thereoff reap golden corn one day.
Oft has he tried, the niggard soul,
The mighty stones away to roll,
As useless burdens of his ground;
But they for that too big were found.
See, see! the moon through cloud and rack
Looks down upon the letters black:
And when the ghost its form uprears
He shines upon its bursting tears-
For oh! the moon's an ancient man,
Describe him, mortal tongue ne'er can,
He shines alike, serene and bright,
At midmost hour of witching night,
Upon the spot of love and glee,
And on the gloomy gallows-tree.
Upon each Rune behold him stare,
While off he hastes through fields of air;
He understands those signs, I'll gage,
Whose meaning lies in sunken age;
And if he were in speaking state,
No doubt the old man could relate
Strange things that have on earth occurr'd,
Of which fame ne'er has said a word;
But since with look, with look alone,
He cannot those events make known,
He waketh from his height sublime
Mere longing for the dark gone time.



George Henry Borrow


George Henry Borrow's other poems:
  1. Lines to Six-Foot Three
  2. The Old Oak
  3. Waldemar's Chase
  4. Miscellanies
  5. Glee


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