Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, SIR WALTER MANNY AT HIS FATHER'S TOMB; BALLAD, by LETITIA ELIZABETH LANDON



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SIR WALTER MANNY AT HIS FATHER'S TOMB; BALLAD, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Oh, show me the grave where my father is laid
Last Line: I shall not mourn my task is done.
Alternate Author Name(s): L. E. L.; Maclean, Letitia
Subject(s): Chivalry


"O SHOW me the grave where my father is laid,
Show his lowly grave to me;
A hundred pieces of broad red gold,
Old man, shall thy guerdon be!"

With torch in hand, and bared head,
The old man led the way;
And cold and shrill pass'd the midnight wind
Through his hair of silvery grey.

A stately knight follow'd his steps,
And his form was tall and proud;
But his step fell soft, and his helm was off,
And his head on his bosom bow'd.

They pass'd through the cathedral aisles,
Whose sculptured walls declare
The deeds of many a noble knight;
DE MANNY'S name was not there.

They pass'd next a low and humble church,
Scarce seen amid the gloom;
There was many a grave, yet not even there
Had his father found a tomb.

They traversed a bleak and barren heath,
Till they came to a gloomy wood,
Where the dark trees droop'd, and the dark grass grew
As cursed with the sight of blood.

There stood a lorn and blasted tree,
As heaven and earth were its foes,
And beneath was a piled-up mound of stones,
Whence a rude grey cross arose.

"And lo!" said the ancient servitor,
"It is here thy father is laid;
No mass has bless'd the lowly grave
Which his humblest follower made.

"I would have wander'd through every land
Where his gallant name was known,
To have pray'd a mass for the soul of the dead,
And a monumental stone.

"But I knew thy father had a son,
To whom the task would be dear;
Young knight, I kept the warrior's grave
For thee, and thou art here."

SIR WALTER grasp'd the old man's hand,
But spoke he never a word; --
So still it was, that the fall of tears
On his mailed vest was heard.

Oh! the heart has all too many tears;
But none are like those that wait
On the blighted love, the loneliness
Of the young orphan's fate.

He call'd to mind when for knighthood's badge
He knelt at EDWARD'S throne;
How many stood by a parent's side,
But he stood there alone!

He thought how often his heart had pined,
When his was the victor's name;
Thrice desolate, strangers might give,
But could not share his fame.

Down he knelt in silent prayer,
On the grave where his father slept;
And many the tears, and bitter the thoughts,
As the warrior his vigil kept.

And he built a little chapel there;
And bade the death-bell toll,
And prayers he said, and mass he sung
For the weal of the warrior's soul.

Years pass'd, and ever SIR WALTER was first
Where warlike deeds were done;
But who would not look for the gallant knight
In the leal and loyal son?

SOOTH to say, the sight was fair,
When the lady unbound from her raven hair
The Golden Violet. O praise!
Dear thou art to the poet's lays.
Many a flash from each dark eye pass'd,
Many a minstrel's pulse throbb'd fast,
As she held forth the flower.

THE dream is past, hush'd is my lute,
At least, to my awaking, mute;
Past that fair garden and glad hall,
And she the lady queen of all.
Leave we her power to those who deign
One moment to my idle strain:
Let each one at his pleasure set
The prize -- the Golden Violet.
Could I choose where it might belong,
Mid phantoms but of mine own song?

My task is ended; it may seem
But vain regret for morning dream,
To say how sad a look is cast
Over the line we know the last.
The weary hind at setting sun
Rejoices over labour done,
The hunter at the ended chase,
The ship above its anchoring place,
The pilgrim o'er his pilgrimage,
The reader o'er the closing page;
All, for end is to them repose.
The poet's lot is not with those:
His hour in paradise is o'er;
He stands on earth, and takes his share
Of shadows closing round him more,
The feverish hope, the freezing care;
And he must read in other eyes,
Or if his spirit's sacrifice
Shall brighten, touch'd with heaven's own fire,
Or in its ashes dark expire.
Then even worse, -- what art thou, fame?
A various and doubtful claim
One grants and one denies; what none
Can wholly quite agree upon.
A dubious and uncertain path
At least the modern minstrel hath;
How may he tell, where none agree,
What may fame's actual passport be?

For me, in sooth, not mine the lute
On its own powers to rely;
But its chords with all wills to suit,
It were an easier task to try
To blend in one each varying tone
The midnight wind hath ever known.
One saith that tale of battle brand
Is all too rude for my weak hand;
Another, too much sorrow flings
In pining cadence o'er my strings.
So much to win, so much to lose,
No marvel if I fear to choose.
How can I tell of battle-field,
I never listed brand to wield;
Or dark ambition's pathway try,
In truth I never look'd so high;
Or stern revenge, or hatred fell,
Of what I know not, can I tell?
I soar not on such lofty wings,
My lute has not so many strings;
Its dower is but a humble dower,
And I who call upon its aid,
My power is but a woman's power,
Of softness and of sadness made.
In all its changes my own heart
Must give the colour, have its part.
If that I know myself what keys
Yield to my hand their sympathies,
I should say it is those whose tone
Is woman's love and sorrow's own;
Such notes as float upon the gale,
When twilight, tender nurse and pale,
Brings soothing airs and silver dew
The panting roses to renew;
Feelings whose truth is all their worth,
Thoughts which have had their pensive birth
When lilies hang their heads and die,
Eve's lesson of mortality.
Such lute, and with such humble wreath
As suits frail string and trembling breath,
Such, gentle reader, woos thee now.
Oh! o'er it bend with yielding brow:
Read thou it when some soften'd mood
Is on thy hour of solitude;
And tender memory, sadden'd thought,
On the world's harsher cares have wrought.
Bethink thee, kindly look and word
Will fall like sunshine o'er each chord;
That, light as is such boon to thee,
'Tis more than summer's noon to me;
That, if such meed my suit hath won,
I shall not mourn my task is done.





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