Page images

They lighten up her chestnut eye, they mantle' o'er her cheek,
They sparkle on her open brow, and high-soul'd joy! bespeak.
Ah! who shall blame, if scarce that day, through all its brilliant

She thought of that quiet convent's calm, its sunshine, and its flowers?

The scene was changed. It was a bark' that slowly held its way,
And o'er its leel the coast of France' in the light of evening' lay;
And on its deck' a lady sat, who gazed with tearful eyes!
Upon the fast-receding hills, that dim' and distant! rise.
No marvel' that the lady wept-there was no land on earth'
She loved' like that dear land, although she owed it not her birth:
It was her mother's land, the land of childhood' and of friends-
It was the land where she had found! for all her griefs! amends-
The land' where her dead husband' slept-the land' where she had

The tranquil convent's hushed repose, and the splendours of a throne:
No marvel that the lady' wept-it was the land of France-
The chosen home of chivalry-the garden of romance!

The past was bright, like those dear hills' so far behind her bark:
The future, like the gathering night, was ominous' and dark!
One gaze again-one long, last gaze-"Adieu, fair France, to thee!"
The breeze comes forth-she is alone on the unconscious sea.

The scene was changed. It was an eve! of raw and surly mood,
And in a turret-chamber high' of ancient Holyrood!
Sat Mary, listening to the rain, and sighing' with the winds,
That seemed to suit the stormy state of men's uncertain minds.
The touch of care' had blanched her cheek-her smile was sadder


The weight of royalty! had pressed too heavy on her brow;
And traitors to her councils came, and rebels' to the field;
The Stuart sceptrel well she swayed, but the sword she could not

She thought of all her blighted hopes-the dreams' of youth's brief day,

And summoned Rizzio' with his lute, and bade the minstrell play
The songs she loved in early years-the songs of gay Navarre,
The songs perchancel that erst were sung by gallant Chatelar:
They half beguiled her of her cares, they soothed her into smiles,
They won her thoughts' from bigot zeal, and fierce' domestic broils:-
But hark! the tramp of armed men! the Douglas battle cry!
They come-they come and lo! the scowl of Ruthven's hollow

And swords are drawn, and daggers' gleam, and tears! and words! are vain,

The ruffian steel is in his heart-the faithful Rizzio's slain! Then Mary Stuart' brushed aside the tears that trickling fell: "Now! for my father's arm!" she said; "my woman's heart' fare


The scene' was changed. It was a lake, with one small! lonely isle,
And there, within the prison-walls! of its baronial pile,
Stern men stood menacing their queen, till she should stoop to sign
The traitorous scroll that snatched the crown' from her ancestral


"My lords, my lords!" the captive said, "were I but once more free,

With ten good knights! on yonder shore, to aid my cause and me,
That parchment! would I scatter widel to every breezel that blows,
And once more reign a Stuart queen' o'er my remorseless foes!"
A red spot burned upon her cheek-streamed her rich tresses


She wrote the words—she stood erect—a queen' without a crown!

The scene was changed. A royal host' a royal banner! bore,
And the faithful of the land' stood round their smiling queen once


She stayed her steed upon a hill-she saw them' marching by-
She heard their shouts she read success! in every flashing eye;-
The tumult of the strifel begins-it roars-it dies away;
And Mary's troops' and banners now, and courtiers-where are they?
Scattered and strewn, and flying far, defenceless' and undone
O God! to see what shel has lost, and think what guilt has won!
Away! away! thy gallant steed' must act no laggard's part;
Yet, vain his speed, for thou dost bear the arrow in thy heart.

The scene was changed. Beside the block! a sullen headsman! stood,

And gleamed the broad axe' in his hand, that soon' must drip with blood.

With slow and steady step! there came a lady' through the hall, And breathless silence' chained the lips, and touched the hearts of all;

Rich were the sable robes' she wore-her white veil' round her! fell

And from her neck! there hung the cross-the cross she loved so well!

I knew that queenly form again, though blighted' was its bloom-
I saw that grief had decked it out-an offering for the tomb!
I knew the eye, though faint its light, that once so brightly shone-
I knew the voice, though feeble now, that thrilled with every tone-
I knew the ringlets, almost grey, once threads of living gold-
I knew that bounding grace of step-that symmetry of mould!
Even now' I see her far away, in that calm convent aisle;
I hear her chant her vesper-hymn, I mark her holy smile-
Even now I see her bursting forth, upon her bridal morn,
A new star in the firmament, to light and glory! born!
Alas! the change! she placed her foot' upon a triple throne,
And on the scaffold now she stands-beside the block, alone!
The little dog' that licks her hand, the last of all the crowd!
Who sunned themselves' beneath her glance, and round her foot-

steps bowed!

Her neck is bared-the blow is struck-the soul' is passed away;
The bright-the beautiful-is now a bleeding piece of clay!
The dog is moaning piteously; and, as it gurgles o'er,
Laps the warm blood' that trickling runs unheeded to the floor!
The blood of beauty, wealth, and power-the heart-blood of a queen,
The noblest of the Stuart race-the fairest! earth hath seen -
Lapped by a dog! Go, think of it, in silencel and alone;
Then weigh against a grain of sand, the glories of a throne!



[THOMAS GRAY, a celebrated English poet, was born in London in 1716, and died in 1771. His life was spent chiefly at the University of Cambridge, in which he held the situation of Professor of Modern History. As a poet he is energetic and full of classic grace, and hls lyrics, though few, have been rarely, if ever, surpassed. His principal odes are "The Elegy Written in a Country Church-Yard," "The Progress of Poesy," and "The Ode on Eton College."]

THE Curfew! tolls the knell of parting day,

The lowing herd' winds' slowly! o'er the lea,
The ploughman' homeward' plods his weary way,
And leaves the world' to darkness and to me.

Now fades the glimmering landscape' on the sight,
And all the air a solemn stillness holds,
Savel where the beetle' wheels his droning flight,
And drowsy tinklings! lull the distant folds;

Save, that, from yonder ivy-mantled tower,

The moping owl does to the moon complain
Of such as, wandering near her secret bower,
Molest her ancient solitary reign.

Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree's shade,
Where heaves the turf! in many a mouldering heap,
Each' in his narrow cell for ever laid,

The rude forefathers of the hamlet' sleep.

The breezy call! of incense-breathing morn,

The swallow twittering from the straw-built shed,
The cock's shrill clarion, or the echoing horn,

No more shall rouse them! from their lowly bed.

For them no more the blazing hearth' shall burn,
Or busy housewifel ply her evening care;
No children run to lisp their sire's return,

Or climb his knees the envied kiss' to share.

Oft did the harvest' to their sickle yield,

Their furrow! oft' the stubborn glebe has broke;
How jocund' did they drive their team afield!

How' bowed the woods' beneath their sturdy stroke!

Let not Ambition' mock their useful toil,

Their homely joys' and destiny obscure;
Nor Grandeur hear, with a disdainful smile,
The short and simple annals of the poor.

The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,

And all that beauty, all that wealth' e'er gave,
Await, alike, the inevitable hour:-

The paths of glory' lead-but to the grave.

Nor you, ye proud! impute to these the fault,

If Memory o'er their tomb' no trophies raise, Where, through the long-drawn aisle and fretted vault, The pealing anthem' swells the note of praise.

Can storied urn, or animated bust,

Back to its mansion' call the fleeting breath? Can Honour's voice! provoke the silent dust,

Or Flattery soothe the dull' cold ear of Death?

Perhaps in this neglected spot' is laid

Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire; Hands, that the rod of empire might have swayed, Or waked' to ecstasy! the living lyre:

But Knowledge' to their eyes' her ample page,
Rich with the spoils of time, did ne'er unroll;
Chill penury' repressed their noble rage,

And froze the genial current of the soul.

Full many a gem of purest ray serene

The dark' unfathomed caves of ocean' bear; Full many a flower' is born to blush unseen, And waste its sweetness' on the desert air.

Some village Hampden, that, with dauntless breast,
The little tyrant of his fields withstood;
Some mute inglorious Milton' here may rest,

Some Cromwell, guiltless of his country's blood.

The applause of listening senates' to command,
The threats of pain and ruin' to despise,
To scatter plenty o'er a smiling land,

And read their history' in a nation's eyes,
Their lot' forbade: nor circumscribed alone

Their growing virtues, but their crimes confined!Forbade to wade' through slaughter to a throne, And shut the gates of mercy on mankind;

The struggling pangs of conscious truth' to hide,
To quench the blushes of ingenuous shame;
Or heap the shrine of Luxury and Pride

With incense' kindled at the Muse's flame.

Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife—
Their sober wishes never learned to stray;
Along the cool' sequestered vale of life!

They kept the noiseless tenor of their way.

Yet even these bones, from insult to protect,
Some frail memorial, still erected nigh,

With uncouth rhymes and shapeless sculpture' decked,
Implores the passing tribute of a sigh.

Their name, their years, spelt by the unlettered Muse,
The place of fame and elegy supply:
And many a holy text around she strews,

To teach the rustic moralist to die.


For who, to dumb Forgetfulness! a prey,

This pleasing anxious being e'er resigned, Left the warm precincts of the cheerful day, Nor cast one longing, lingering look behind?

On some fond breast' the parting soul relies,

Some pious drops! the closing eye requires; Even from the tomb' the voice of Naturel cries, Even in our ashes' live their wonted fires.

For thee, who, mindful of the unhonoured dead,
Dost in these lines' their artless tale relate;
If, 'chance, by lonely Contemplation led,

Some kindred spirit' shall inquire thy fate,

Haply some hoary-headed swain' may say--
"Oft have we seen him, at the peep of dawn,
Brushing with hasty steps' the dews away,
To meet the sun' upon the upland lawn,

There, at the foot of yonder nodding beech,

That wreathes its old fantastic roots! so high,
His listless length' at noon-tide' would he stretch,
And pore upon the brook' that babbles by.
"Hard by yon wood, now smiling' as in scorn,

Muttering his wayward fancies' he would rove;
Now drooping, woeful, wan, like one forlorn,

Or crazed with care, or crossed in hopeless love. "One morn! I missed him' on the accustomed hill, Along the heath' and near his favourite tree; Another came; nor yet beside the rill,

Nor up the lawn, nor at the wood' was he:

"The next, with dirges due, in sad array,

Slow through the church-way path we saw him borne:-Approach, and read (for thou canst read) the lay Graved on the stonel beneath yon aged thorn."


Here rests his head upon the lap of Earth,

A Youth, to Fortune' and to Fame! unknown: Fair Science' frowned not on his humble birth, And Melancholy' marked him for her own.

Large was his bounty, and his soul' sincere;

Heaven did a recompense! as largely send; He gave to Misery! all he had, a tear;

He gained from Heaven ('twas all he wished) a friend.

No further! seek his merits to disclose,

Or draw his frailties' from their dread abode, (There they alikel in trembling hopel repose)

The bosom of his Father' and his God.


« PreviousContinue »