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Or look with ruffian passion in her face!
Good Angela, believe me, by these tears,
Or I will, even in a moment's space,
Awake with horrid shout my foemen's ears,
And beard them, though they be more fanged than wolves and bears!"
"Ah! why wilt thou affright a feeble soul?-
A poor, weak, palsy-stricken, churchyard thing,
Whose passing bell may ere the midnight toll;
Whose prayers for thee, each morn and evening,
Were never missed ?" Thus plaining, doth she bring
A gentler speech from burning Porphyro,
So woful and of such deep sorrowing,
That Angela gives promise she will do Whatever he shall wish, betide or weal or woe:
Which was, to lead him in close secrecy
Even to Madeline's chamber, and there hide
Him in a closet, of such privacy
That he might see her beauty unespied.
And win perhaps that night a peerless bride,
While legioned fairies paced the coverlet,
And pale Enchantment held her sleepy-eyed.
Never on such a night have lovers met,
Since Merlin paid his demon all the monstrous debt.
"It shall be as thou wishest," said the dame;
"All cates and dainties shall be stored there,
Quickly on this feast-night; by the tambour-frame
Her own lute thou wilt see: no time to spare,
For I am slow and feeble, and scarce dare,
On such a catering, trust my dizzy head.
Wait here, my child, with patience; kneel in prayer
The while; ah! thou must needs the lady wed;
may I never leave my grave among the dead!"
So saying, she hobbled off with busy fear;
The lover's endlesss minute slowly passed,
The dame returned, and whispered in his ear
To follow her, with aged eyes aghast
From fright of dim espial. Safe at last
Through many a dusky gallery, they gain
The maiden's chamber, silken, hushed, and chaste,
Where Porphyro took covert, pleased amain :
His poor guide hurried back with agues in her brain.
Her faltering hand upon the balustrade, Old Angela was feeling for the stair, When Madeline, St. Agnes' charmèd maid, Rose, like a missioned spirit, unaware; With silver taper-light, and pious care She turned, and down the aged gossip led To a safe, level matting. Now prepare, Young Porphyro, for gazing on that bed; She comes, she comes again, like ring-dove frayed and fled.
Out went the taper as she hurried in ;
Its little smoke in pallid moonshine died:
She closed the door, she panteth all akin
To spirits of the air, and visions wide;
Nor uttered syllable, or "Woe betide!"
But to her heart her heart was voluble,
Paining with eloquence her balmy side:
As though a tongueless nightingale should swell
Her throat in vain, and die heart-stifled in her dell.
A casement high and triple-arched there was,
All garlanded with carven images
Of fruits, and flowers, and bunches of knot-grass,
And diamonded with panes of quaint device,
Innumerable of stains and splendid dyes,
As are the tiger-moth's deep damasked wings; And in the midst, 'mong thousand heraldries, And twilight saints, and dim emblazonings, A shielded scutcheon blushed with blood of queens and
Full on this casement shone the wintry moon,
And threw warm gales on Madeline's fair breast,
As down she knelt for Heaven's grace and boon;
Rose-bloom fell on her hands together pressed,
And on her silver cross soft amethyst,
And on her hair a glory like a saint;
She seemed a splendid angel, newly dressed,
Save wings for heaven :-Porphyro grew faint-
She knelt so pure a thing, so free from mortal taint.
Anon his heart revives: her vespers done,
Of all its wreathèd pearls her hair she frees;
Unclasps her warmèd jewels one by one;
Loosens her fragrant bodice; by degrees,
Her rich attire creeps rustling to her knees:
Half hidden, like a mermaid in sea-weed,
Pensive awhile she dreams awake, and sees
In fancy fair St. Agnes in her bed,
But dares not look behind, or all the charm is fled.
Soon, trembling in her soft and chilly nest,
In sort of wakeful swoon, perplexed she lay,
Until the poppied warmth of sleep oppressed
Her smoothed limbs, and soul, fatigued away,
Flown, like a thought, until the morrow day;
Blissfully havened both from joy and pain;
Clasped like a missal, where swart Paynims pray;
Blinded alike from sunshine and from rain,
As though a rose should shut, and be a bud again.
Stol'n to this paradise, and so entranced,
Porphyro gazed upon her empty dress,
And listened to her breathing if it chanced
To wake unto a slumb'rous tenderness:
Which when he heard, that minute did he bless,
And breathed himself; then from the closet crept,
Noiseless as fear in a wild wilderness,
And over the hushed carpet silent stepped,
And 'tween the curtains peeped, where lo! how fast she
Then by the bedside, where the faded moon
Made a dim, silver twilight,—soft he set
A table, and, half-anguished, threw thereon
A cloth of woven crimson, gold, and jet :—
O, for some drowsy Morphean amulet!
The boist'rous, midnight, festive clarion,
The kettle-drum, and far-heard clarionet,
Affray his ears, though but in dying tone:—
hall-door shuts again, and all the noise is
And still she slept an azure-lidded sleep In blanched linen, smooth and lavendered, While he from forth the closet brought a heap Of candied apple, quince, and plum, and gourd, With jellies soother than the creamy curd, And lucent sirups tinct with cinnamon : Manna and dates, in argosy transferred From Fez; and spiced dainties every one, From silken Samarcand to cedared Lebanon.
These delicates he heaped with glowing hand On golden dishes and in baskets bright Of wreathed silver; sumptuously they stand In the retirèd quiet of the night, Filling the chilly room with perfume light. “And now, my love, my seraph fair, awake! Thou art my heaven, and I thine eremite. Open thine eyes for meek St. Agnes' sake, Or I shall drowse beside thee, so my soul doth ache.”
Thus whispering, his warm, unnervèd arm
Sank in her pillow. Shaded was her dream
By the dusk curtains ;-'twas a midnight charm
Impossible to melt as icèd stream :