Page images
PDF
EPUB

RICHARD PLANTAGENET.

A LEGENDARY TALE.

“THE work is done, the structure is complete, Long may this produce of my humble toil Uninjur'd stand, and echo long repeat,

Round the dear walls, Benevolence and MOYLE.*"

66

So Richard spake, as he survey'd

The dwelling he had rais'd;

And, in the fullness of his heart,
His gen'rous patron prais❜d.

Him Moyle o'erheard, whose wand'ring step
Chance guided had that way;

The workman's mien he ey'd intent,
Then earnest thus did say:

My mind, I see, misgave me not,
My doubtings now are clear,

Thou oughtest not, in poor attire,
Have dwelt a menial here.

Sir Thomas Moyle, possessor of Eastwell Place, in the county of Kent, in the year 1546, gave Richard Plantagenet (who for many years had been his chief bricklayer) a piece of ground and permission to build himself a house thereon. The poem opens just when Richard is supposed to have finished this task. Eastwell Place has since been in the possession of the Earls of Winchelsea.

"To drudgery, and servile toil,

Thou could'st not be decreed
By birth and blood, but thereto wrought
By hard o'er-ruling need.

"Is it not so? That crimson glow,
That flushes o'er thy cheek,
And down-cast eye, true answer give,
And thy tongue need not speak.

"Oft have I mark'd thee, when unseen
Thou thought'st thyself by all,
What time the workman from his task
The ev'ning bell did call?

"Hast thou not shunn'd thy untaught mates, And to some secret nook,

With drooping gait, and musing eye,
Thy lonely step betook?

"There hath not thy attention dwelt
Upon the letter'd page,

Lost, as it seem'd to all beside,
Like some sequester'd sage?

"And wouldst thou not, with eager haste,
The precious volume hide,
If sudden some intruder's eye
Thy musings hath descried?

"Oft have I deem'd thou couldst explore
The Greek and Roman page,
And oft have yearn'd to view the theme,
That did thy hours engage.

"But sorrow, greedy, grudging, coy,
Esteems of mighty price

Its treasur'd cares, and to the world
The scantiest share denies ;

All as the Miser's heaped hoards,
To him alone confin'd,

They serve, at once, to sooth and pain
The wretched owner's mind.

"Me had capricious fortune doom'd
Thine equal in degree,

Long, long ere now, I had desir'd
To know thine history:

"But who their worldly honours wear With meekness chaste and due, Decline to ask, lest the request

Should bear commandment's hue.

"Yet now thy tongue hath spoke aloud Thy grateful piety,

No longer be thy story kept'
In painful secrecy.

"Give me to know thy dawn of life;
Unfold, with simple truth,
Not to thy master, but thy friend,
The promise of thy youth.

"Now, late in life, 'tis time, I ween,
To give thy labours o'er;
Thy well-worn implements lay by,
And drudge and toil no more.

"Here shalt thou find a quiet rest,

For all thy days to come,
And every comfort that may serve
T' endear thy humble home.

"Hast thou a wish, a hope to frame, Beyond this neat abode ?

Is there a good, a higher bliss,
By me may be bestow'd?

"Is there within thy aged breast The smallest aching void? "Give me to know thy longings all, And see them all supply'd.

"All I entreat, in lieu, is this,
Unfold, with simple truth,
Not to thy master, but thy friend,
The promise of thy youth."

So gen'rous Moyle intent bespake

The long enduring man,*
Who rais'd, at length, his drooping head,
And, sighing, thus began:

RICHARD PLANTAGENET

RECITETH HIS TALE.

HARD task to any, but thyself, to tell

The story of my birth and treach'rous fate, Or paint the tumults in my breast that swell, At recollection of my infant state!

Oft have I labour'd to forget my birth,

And check'd remembrance, when, in cruel wise, From time's abyss she would the tale draw forth, And place my former self before my eyes.

Yet I complain not, tho' I feel anew,

All as I speak, fell fortune's bitter spite, Who once set affluence, grandeur, in my view, Then churlish snatch'd them from my cheated sight.

And yet it may be-is-nay, must be best,

Whate'er heav'n's righteous laws for man ordain; Weak man who lets one sigh invade his breast, For earthly grandeur, fugitive as vain!

* He served near sixty years at Eastwell.

« PreviousContinue »