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Of facts divulged, wherein appear
Substantial motive, reason clear,
Why thus the milk-white Doe is found
Couchant beside that lonely mound;
And why she duly loves to pace
The circuit of this hallowed place.
Nor to the Child's inquiring mind
Is such perplexity confined:
For, spite of sober truth, that sees
A world of fixed remembrances
Which to this mystery belong,
If, undeceived, my skill can trace
The characters of every face,
There lack not strange delusion here,
Conjecture vague, and idle fear,
And superstitious fancies strong,
Which do the gentle Creature wrong.
That bearded, staff-supported Sire, (Who in his youth hath often fed Full cheerily on convent-bread, And heard old tales by the convent-fire, And lately hath brought home the scars Gathered in long and distant wars)
That Old Man studious to expound
The spectacle - hath mounted high
To days of dim antiquity;
When Lady Aäliza mourned
Her Son, and felt in her despair,
The pang of unavailing prayer ;
Her Son in Wharf's abysses drowned,
The noble Boy of Egremound.
From which affliction, when God's grace
At length had in her heart found place,
A pious structure, fair to see,
Rose up — this stately Priory!
The Lady's work, — but now laid low;
To the grief of her soul that doth come and go,
In the beautiful form of this innocent Doe :
Which, though seemingly doomed in its breast to sustain
A softened remembrance of sorrow and pain,
Is spotless, and holy, and gentle, and bright;
And glides o'er the earth like an angel of light.
Pass, pass who will, yon chantry door ;
And, through the chink in the fractured floor
Look down, and see a griesly sight;
A vault where the bodies are buried upright!
There, face by face, and hand by hand, The Claphams and Mauleverers stand; And, in his place, among son and sire, Is John de Clapham, that fierce Esquire, A valiant man, and a name of dread, In the ruthless wars of the White and Red ; Who dragged Earl Pembroke from Banbury church, And smote off his head on the stones of the porch! Look down among them, if you dare; Oft does the White Doe loiter there, Prying into the darksome rent; Nor can it be with good intent: So thinks that Dame of haughty air, Who hath a Page her book to hold, And wears a frontlet edged with gold. Well may her thoughts be harsh ; for she Numbers among her ancestry Earl Pembroke, slain so impiously!
That slender Youth, a scholar pale,
From Oxford come to his native vale,
He also hath his own conceit:
It is, thinks he, the gracious Fairy,
Who loved the Shepherd Lord to meet
In his wanderings solitary:
Wild notes she in his hearing sang,
of Nature's hidden powers ;
That whistled like the wind, and rang
Among the rocks and holly bowers.
'Twas said that she all shapes could wear ;
And oftentimes before him stood,
Amid the trees of some thick wood,
In semblance of a lady fair ;
And taught him signs, and showed him sights,
In Craven's dens, on Cumbrian heights ;
When under cloud of fear he lay,
A Shepherd clad in homely grey,
Nor left him at his later day.
And hence, when he, with spear and shield,
Rode full of years to Flodden field,
could see the hidden spring,
And how the current was to flow;
The fatal end of Scotland's King,
And all that hopeless overthrow.
But not in wars did he delight,
This Clifford wished for worthier might;
Nor in broad pomp, or courtly state;
Him his own thoughts did elevate,
Most happy in the shy recess
Of Barden's humble quietness.
And choice of studious friends had he
Of Bolton's dear fraternity;
Who, standing on this old church tower,
In many a calm propitious hour,
Perused, with him, the starry sky ;
Or, in their cells, with him did pry
For other lore, -- through strong desire
Searching the earth with chemic fire:
But they and their good works are fled
And all is now disquieted —
And peace is none, for living or dead!
Ah, pensive Scholar, think not so, But look again at the radiant Doe! What quiet watch she seems to keep, Alone, beside that grassy heap!
Why mention other thoughts unmeet For vision so composed and sweet? While stand the people in a ring, Gazing, doubting, questioning; Yea, many overcome in spite Of recollections clear and bright; Which yet do unto some impart An undisturbed repose of heart.