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Poem by Joanna Baillie
HAIL, falling shades! hail, stillest ev'ning hour! Sacred to verse; and thou sublimest power, Imagination! thou, while slumber light Lays me to rest upon the lap of night, Draw near my couch--and bear my soul away From earth's dull shades to scenes of brighter day: Lead her to each lone vale, and hallow'd mount; To each enchanted oak and mystic fount; But chiefly lead her to the Choral Hall Of old Oceanus--and, at thy call, Bid soft Autona at my will prepare, And tell of deeds that mark'd her borders fair. The song prevail'd--and, deck'd with varied flower Of reed and lily--from her watery bow'r Autona rose; and, turning her dark head To shade and meadow, pensive thus she said: 'Hail, Fothringay! tho' faded now thy bow'rs, Thy princes vanish, gone thy stately tow'rs; Borne on the breeze from yon lone bank thy sigh Murmurs of glory past.--To poet's eye Fair in thy mourning weeds. Amid the vale, I hail thee queen, and would record thy tale. Lo! on that mound in days of feudal pride Thy tow'ring castle frown'd above the tide, Flung wide her gates, where troops of vassals met With awe, the brow of high Plantaganet . But ah! what chiefs in sable crest appear! What great achievement marks yon warrior's bier! 'Tis York's--from Agincourt's victorious plain, They bear the fallen hero o'er the main, Thro' all the land his blooming laurels shed, And to thy bosom give the mighty dead. When from thy lap the vengeful Richard sprung, A boding sound in all my borders rung; It spoke a tale of blood--fair Nevile's woe, York's murd'rous hand--and Edward's future foe. 'In darkest night for ever veil the scene When thy cold walls receiv'd the captive Queen. For this hath ruin torn thee from the ground, Spread her wild bramble and her thistle round, Burst on thy princely tower with whelming tide, Nor left one vestige to relate thy pride. 'I saw her on that bank in sorrow tear The golden circlet from her graceful hair; While thus she spoke,--'Hence shall the scorner see That all my royal state consists in thee!' Hence, bauble, hence to pow'r! nor bind that head That bows degraded o'er this humble bed. Fair stream! my prison's guard, yet still and slow In seeming rev'rence of the captive's woe; Were but mankind as gentle as thy flood, As deep their friendship, and as clear their good! Could'st thou convey me to the sounding tide, This hand should spread the sail--the steerage guide; The lovely bark my Gallia's shore would gain, And England's Queen confess my pow'r to reign. But vain the wish!--To me no more is giv'n Of joy or hope,--but that which rests in heav'n.' She sighs--and lo! thro' yonder portal come Nobles and Judges to pronounce her doom. She pleads indignant--'Bring ye, subjects, laws Unjustly here to try a Monarch's cause? Your's is nor law nor truth, resolv'd on wrong, Death clouds your brow, and rancour arms your tongue.' She ceas'd.--At Howard's name her sorrows flow, How lov'd his mem'ry, how deplor'd his woe! See the last sun to Mary's eye descend, And night her curtain o'er the scene extend! Her watchful train in speechless anguish weep; The captive's eyes alone are clos'd in sleep. See the last morning break--with mournful state, Forth comes the royal captive to her fate. Death cannot move her soul--the sighing breath Of pitying bosoms gives the sting of death. Be calm,' she said, 'for Stuart soon shall be Above the sphere of mortal majesty; Her little triumphs and her wrongs be o'er, Weep no more, faithful Melville! weep no more!' Religion's hope her last sad words express; Scotland admonish--ruthless England bless: But oh!--the pause that follow'd--and the groan Struck every nerve, and froze the blood to stone! Trembling I hid my brow beneath the wave, And sank in terror to my inmost cave. Farewell--I mark with hate that murd'rous hour, And glide in silent grief to ocean's bow'r!
Joanna Baillie's other poems:
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