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These executioners were chose,
As men who were with mankind foes,
And, with despite and envy fired,
Into the cloister had retired;
Or who, in desperate doubt of grace,
Strove, by deep penance, to efface
Of some foul crime the stain;
For, as the vassals of her will,
Such men the church selected still,
As either joyed in doing ill,
Or thought more grace to gain,
If, in her cause, they wrestled down
Feelings their nature strove to own.
By strange device were they brought there,
They knew not how, and knew not where.
And now that blind old Abbot rose,
To speak the Chapter's doom On those the wall was to inclose,
Alive, within the tomb;
But stopped, because that woeful maid,
Gathering her powers, to speak essayed.
Twice she essayed, and twice in vain ;
Her accents might no utterance gain;
Naught but imperfect murmurs slip
From her convulsed and quivering lip:
"Twixt each attempt all was so still,
You seemed to hear a distant rill-
"Twas ocean's swells and falls;
For though this vault of sin and fear
Was to the sounding surge so near,
A tempest there you scarce could hea
So massive were the walls.
At length, an effort sent apart
The blood that curdled to her heart,
And light came to her eye,
And color dawned upon her cheek,
A hectic and a fluttered streak,
Like that left on the Cheviot peak
By Autumn's stormy sky;
And when her silence broke at length, Still as she spoke, she gathered strength,
And armed herself to bear.
It was a fearful sight to see
Such high resolve and constancy,
In form so soft and fair.
"I speak not to implore your grace; Well know I, for one minute's space Successless might I sue:
Nor do I speak your prayers to gain;
For if a death of lingering pain,
To cleanse my sins, be penance vain,
Vain are your masses too.
I listened to a traitor's tale,
I left the convent and the veil ;
For three long years I bowed my pride,
A horse-boy in his train to ride;
And well my folly's meed he gave,
Who forfeited, to be his slave,
All here, and all beyond the grave.-
He saw young Clara's face more fair,
He knew her of broad lands the heir,
Forgot his vows, his faith forswore,
And Constance was beloved no more.-
'Tis an old tale, and often told;
But, did my fate and wish agree,
Ne'er had been read, in story old,
Of maiden true betrayed for gold,
That loved, or was avenged, like me!
"The king approved his favorite's aim; In vain a rival barred his claim,
Whose faith with Clare's was plight, For he attaints that rival's fame
With treason's charge—and on they came, In mortal lists to fight.
Their oaths are said,
Their prayers are prayed,
Their lances in the rest are laid,
They meet in mortal shock;
And hark! the throng, with thundering cry, Shout, Marmion, Marmion, to the sky!
De Wilton to the block!'
Say ye, who preach heaven shall decide,
When in the lists two champions ride,
Say, was heaven's justice here? When, loyal in his love and faith, Wilton found overthrow or death,
Beneath a traitor's spear.
How false the charge, how true he fell,
This guilty packet best can tell.”—
Then drew a packet from her breast,
Paused, gathered voice, and spoke the rest.
"Still was false Marmion's bridal staid; To Whitby's convent fled the maid,
The hated match to shun.
Ho! shifts she thus?' King Henry cried,
Sir Marmion, she shall be thy bride,
If she were sworn a nun.'
One way remained-the king's command
Sent Marmion to the Scottish land:
I lingered here, and rescue planned
For Clara and for me:
This caitiff Monk, for gold, did swear,
He would to Whitby's shrine repair,
And, by his drugs, my rival fair
A saint in heaven should be.
But ill the dastard kept his oath,
Whose cowardice hath undone us both.
"And now my tongue the secret tells,
Not that remorse my bosom swells,
But to assure my soul, that none
Shall ever wed with Marmion.
Had fortune my last hope betrayed,
This packet, to the king conveyed,
Had given him to the headsman's stroke,
Although my heart that instant broke.—
Now, men of death, work forth your will,
For I can suffer, and be still
And come he slow, or come he fast,
It is but death who comes at last.
"Yet dread me, from my living tomb,
Ye vassal slaves of bloody Rome!
If Marmion's late remorse should wake,
Full soon such vengeance will he take,
That you shall wish the fiery Dane
Had rather been your guest again.
Behind, a darker hour ascends!
The altars quake, the crosier bends,
The ire of a despotic king
Rides forth upon destruction's wing;
Then shall these vaults, so strong and deep,
Burst open to the sea-winds' sweep;
Some traveller then shall find my bones,
Whitening amid disjointed stones.
And, ignorant of priests' cruelty,
Marvel such relics here should be."-
Fixed was her look, and stern her air;
Back from her shoulders streamed her hair;
The locks, that wont her brow to shade,
Stared up erectly from her head;
Her figure seemed to rise more high;
Her voice, despair's wild energy
Had given a tone of prophecy.
Appalled the astonished conclave sate;
With stupid eyes, the men of fate
Gazed on the light inspired form,
And listened for the avenging storm;
The judges felt the victim's dread;
No hand was moved, no word was said,
Till thus the Abbot's doom was given,
Raising his sightless balls to heaven :—
Sister, let thy sorrows cease;
Sinful brother, part in peace
From that dire dungeon, place of doom,
Of execution too, and tomb,