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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-arch'd there was,
As are the tiger-moth's deep damask'd wings; And in the midst, 'mong thousand heraldries, And twilight saints, and dim emblazonings, A shielded scutcheon blush'd with blood of queens and kings. 10
Full on this casement shone the wintry moon,
And on her hair a glory like a saint;
Anon his heart revives: her vespers done,
Soon, trembling in her soft and chilly nest,
Stol'n to this paradise and so entranc'd,
And breath'd himself; then from the closet crept,
And over the hush'd carpet silent stept,
And 'tween the curtains peep'd, where lo! how fast she slept.
Then, by the bedside, where the faded moon
These delicates he heap'd with glowing hand
Filling the chilly room with perfume light.
Thus whispering, his warm, unnerved arm
By the dusk curtains;-'twas a midnight charm
Awakening up, he took her hollow lute,Tumultuous,—and, in chords that tenderest be, He play'd an ancient ditty, long since mute, In Provence call'd, "La belle dame sans mercy:" Close to her ear touching the melody;— Wherewith disturb'd she utter'd a soft moan: He ceas'd-she panted quick-and suddenly Her blue affrayèd eyes wide open shone: Upon his knees he sank, pale as smooth sculptured stone
Her eyes were open, but she still beheld,
"Ah Porphyro!" said she, "but even now
Give me that voice again, my Porphyro,
Those looks immortal, those complainings dear;
For if thou diest, my love, I know not where to go"
Beyond a mortal man impassion'd far15
Seen 'mid the sapphire heaven's deep repose;
Blendeth its odors with the violet,
Solution sweet. Meantime the frost wind blows
'T is dark; quick pattereth the flaw-blown sleet: "This is no dream; my bride, my Madeline !" 'Tis dark the icèd gusts still rave and beat. "No dream, alas! alas! and wo is mine; Porphyro will leave me here to rave and pine; Cruel! what traitor could thee hither bring! I curse not, for my heart is lost in thine, Though thou forsakest a deceived thing;— A dove, forlorn and lost, with sick unprunèd wing."
My Madeline, sweet dreamer! lovely bride! Say, may I be for aye thy vassal blest?
Thy beauty's shield, heart-shap'd, and vermeil-dyed? 16 Ah! silver shrine, here will I take my rest, After so many hours of toil and quest― A famish'd pilgrim, saved by miracle: Though I have found, I will not rob thy nest, Saving of thy sweet self; if thou think'st well To trust, fair Madeline, to no rude infidel.
"Hark! 't is an elfin storm from faery land,
She hurried at his words, beset with fears,
For there were sleeping dragons all around
At glaring watch, perhaps with ready spears.
In all the house was heard no human sound
They glide like phantoms into the wide hall;
With a huge empty flagon by his side;
The watchful blood-hound rose, and shook his hide,
By one, and one, the bolts full easy slide:
The chains lie silent on the foot-worn stones:
And they are gone; ay, ages long ago,
That night the Baron dreamt of many a wo,
"The Eve of St. Agnes."-St. Agnes was a Roman virgin, who suffered martyrdom in the reign of Dioclesian. Her parents, a few days after her decease, are said to have had a vision of her, surrounded by angels and attended by a white lamb, which afterwards became sacred to her. In the Catholic Church, formerly, the nuns used to bring a couple of lambs to her altar during mass. The superstition is (for I believe it is still to be found), that, by taking certain measures of divination, damsels may get a sight of their future husbands in a dream. The ordinary process seems to have been by fasting. Aubrey (as quoted in "Brand's Popular Antiquities") mentions another, which is, to take a row of pins, and pull them out one by one, saying a Paternoster; after which, upon going to bed, the dream is sure to ensue. Brand quotes Ben Jonson :