Page images

Greek, set with busts : from vases in the hall

Flowers of all heavens, and lovelier than their names,
Grew side by side ; and on the pavement lay
Carved stones of the Abbey-ruin in the park,

Huge Ammonites, and the first bones of Time;

And on the tables every clime and age

Jumbled together; celts and calumets,
Claymore and snowshoe, toys in lava, fans

Of sandal, amber, ancient rosaries,

Laborious orient ivory sphere in sphere,

The cursed Malayan crease, and battle-clubs

From the isles of palm : and higher on the walls,

Betwixt the monstrous horns of elk and deer,

His own forefathers arms and armour hung.

And 'this,' he said, 'was Hugh's at Agincourt; And that was old Sir Ralph's at Ascalon : A good knight he! we keep a chronicle With all about him’ – which he brought, and I Dived in a hoard of tales that dealt with knights

Half-legend, half-historic, counts and kings
Who laid about them at their wills and died;
And mixt with these, a lady, one that arm'd
Her own fair head, and sallying thro' the gate,
Had beat her foes with slaughter from her walls.

And, I all rapt in this,'Come out,' he said, To the Abbey : there is Aunt Elizabeth

And sister Lilia with the rest.'

We went

(I kept the book and had my finger in it) Down thro' the park: strange was the sight to me; For all the sloping pasture murmur'd, sown

With happy faces and with holiday.
There moved the multitude, a thousand heads :

The patient leaders of their Institute

Taught them with facts. One rear'd a font of stone And drew, from butts of water on the slope,

The fountain of the moment, playing now

A twisted snake, and now a rain of pearls,

Or steep-up spout whereon the gilded ball

Danced like a wisp : and somewhat lower down

A man with knobs and wires and vials fired

A cannon: Echo answer'd in her sleep
From hollow fields : and here were telescopes
For azure views; and there a group of girls
In circle waited, from the electric shock
Dislink'd with shrieks and laughter : round the lake

A little clock-work steamer paddling plied

And shook the lilies : perch'd about the knolls
A dozen angry models jetted steam :
A petty railway ran: a fire-balloon
Rose gem-like up before the dusky groves
And dropt a fairy parachute and past :
And there thro' twenty posts of telegraph
They flash'd a saucy message to and fro

Between the mimic stations; so that sport

With Science hand in hand went; otherwhere

Pure sport: a herd of boys with clamour bowl'd

And stump’d the wicket; babies roll’d about

Like tumbled fruit in grass; and men and maids

Arranged a country dance, and flew thro' light

And shadow, while the twangling violin
Struck up with Soldier-laddie, and overhead
The broad ambrosial aisles of lofty lime

Made noise with bees and breeze from end to end.

Strange was the sight and smacking of the time; And long we gazed, but satiated at length

Came to the ruins. High-arch'd and ivy-claspt,

Of finest Gothic, lighter than a fire,

Thro one wide chasm of time and frost they gave

The park, the crowd, the house; but all within

The sward was trim as any garden lawn:

And here we lit on Aunt Elizabeth,

And Lilia with the rest, and Ralph himself,
A broken statue propt against the wall,

As gay as any. Lilia, wild with sport,

Half child, half woman as she was, had wound

A scarf of orange round the stony helm,
And robed the shoulders in a rosy silk,

That made the old warrior from his ivied nook

Glow like a sunbeam : near his tomb a feast

Shone, silver-set; about it lay the guests,

And there we join'd them: then the maiden Aunt

Took this fair day for text, and from it preach'd An universal culture for the crowd,

And all things great; but we, unworthier, told
Of college: he had climb'd across the spikes,
And he had squeez'd himself betwixt the bars,
And he had breathed the Proctor's dogs; and one

Discuss'd his tutor, rough to common men

But honeying at the whisper of a lord;

And one the Master, as a rogue in grain

Veneer'd with sanctimonious theory.

But while they talk'd, above their heads I saw

The feudal warrior lady-clad; which brought
My book to mind; and opening this, I read
Of old Sir Ralph a page or two that rang
With tilt and tourney; then the tale of her

« PreviousContinue »