Lines Written at Warwick
HAIL! centre-county of our land, and known For matchless worth and valor all thine own,— Warwick! renowned for him who best could write, Shakespeare the Bard, and him so fierce in fight, Guy, thy brave Earl, who made whole armies fly, And giants fall,—who has not heard of Guy? Him sent his Lady, matchless in her charms, To gain immortal glory by his arms, Felice the fair, who, as her bard maintained, The prize of beauty over Venus gained; For she, the goddess, had some trivial blot That marred some beauty, which our nymph had not: But this apart,—for in a favorite theme Poets and lovers are allowed to dream,— Still we believe the lady and her knight Were matchless both,—he in the glorious fight, She in the bower by day, and festive hall by night. Urged by his love, the adventurous Guy proceeds, And Europe wonders at his warlike deeds; Whatever prince his potent arm sustains, However weak, the certain conquest gains; On every side the routed legions fly, Numbers are nothing in the sight of Guy: To him the injured make their sufferings known, And he relieved all sorrows but his own; Ladies who owed their freedom to his might Were grieved to find his heart another’s right. The brood of giants, famous in those times, Fell by his arm, and perished for their crimes. Colbrand the strong, who by the Dane was brought, When he the crown of good Athelstan sought, Fell by the prowess of our champion brave, And his huge body found an English grave. But what to Guy were men or great or small, Or one or many?—he despatched them all; A huge dun cow, the dread of all around, A master-spirit in our hero found: ’T was desolation all about her den,— Her sport was murder, and her meals were men. At Dunmore Heath the monster he assailed, And o’er the fiercest of his foes prevailed. Nor feared he lions, more than lions fear Poor trembling shepherds, or the sheep they shear; A fiery dragon, whether green or red The story tells not, by his valor bled: What more I know not, but by these ’t is plain That Guy of Warwick never fought in vain. When much of life in martial deeds was spent, His sovereign lady found her heart relent, And gave her hand. Then all was joy around, And valiant Guy with love and glory crowned; Then Warwick Castle wide its gate displayed, And peace and pleasure this their dwelling made. Alas! not long,—a hero knows not rest; A new sensation filled his anxious breast. His fancy brought before his eyes a train Of pensive shades, the ghosts of mortals slain; His dreams presented what his sword had done; He saw the blood from wounded soldiers run, And dying men, with every ghastly wound, Breathed forth their souls upon the sanguine ground. Alarmed at this, he dared no longer stay, But left his bride, and as a pilgrim gray, With staff and beads, went forth to weep and fast and pray. In vain his Felice sighed,—nay, smiled in vain; With all he loved he dare not long remain, But roved he knew not where, nor said, “I come again.” The widowed countess passed her years in grief, But sought in alms and holy deeds relief; And many a pilgrim asked, with many a sigh, To give her tidings of the wandering Guy. Perverse and cruel! could it conscience ease, A wife so lovely and so fond to tease? Or could he not with her a saint become, And, like a quiet man, repent at home? How different those who now this seat possess! No idle dreams disturb their happiness: The lord who now presides o’er Warwick’s towers To nobler purpose dedicates his powers; No deeds of horror fill his soul with fear, Nor conscience drives him from a home so dear: The lovely Felice of the present day Dreads not her lord should from her presence stray; He feels the charm that binds him to a seat Where love and honor, joy and duty meet. But forty days could Guy his fair afford; Not forty years would weary Warwick’s lord: He better knows how charms like hers control All vagrant thoughts, and fill with her the soul; He better knows that not on mortal strife Or deeds of blood depend the bliss of life, But on the ties that first the heart enchain, And every grace that bids the charm remain: Time will, we know, to beauty work despite, And youthful bloom will take with him its flight; But love shall still subsist, and, undecayed, Feel not one change of all that time has made.
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