Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE RING: THE GERMAN MINNESINGER'S TALE, by LETITIA ELIZABETH LANDON



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THE RING: THE GERMAN MINNESINGER'S TALE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Both were young, and both were fair
Last Line: As her heart had the misery it painted known.
Alternate Author Name(s): L. E. L.; Maclean, Letitia


BOTH were young, and both were fair:
She with her shower of golden hair
Falling like flowers, and her bright blue eye
Like the sparkling wave the oar dashes by;
And he with lip and brow as fine
As the statues his country has made divine.

And the pair at the holy altar are kneeling,
While the priest that bond of love is sealing,
When pleasures and sorrows are blent in one,
And heaven blesses what earth has done.
They love, they are loved, that youth and maid,
Yet over them hangs a nameless shade;
They are contrasts each: the broider'd gold
And red gems shine on his mantle's fold;
While the young bride's simple russet dress,
Though well it suits with her loveliness,
Is not a bridal robe fit for the bride
Of one so begirt with pomp and pride:
And on his brow and on his cheek
Are signs that of wildest passion speak,
Of one whose fiery will is his law;
And his beauty, it strikes on the heart with awe:
And the maiden, hers is no smile to brook
In meekness the storm of an angry look;
For her forehead is proud, and her eyes' deep blue
Hath at times a spirit flashing through,
That speaks of feelings too fierce to dwell
In, woman, thy heart's sweet citadel.

He placed on the golden nuptial band;
But the ring hath cut the maiden's hand,
And the blood dripp'd red on the altar stone, --
Never that stain from the floor hath gone.
Away he flung, with a curse, that ring,
And replaced it with one more glittering;
And AGATHA smiled, as pleased to bear
Gems that a queen might be joyed to wear.
The priest urged that ring had been bless'd in vain, --
And the Count and the Maiden left the fane.

Change and time take together their flight,
AGATHA wanders alone by night.
Has change so soon over passion pass'd,
So soon has the veil from love been cast?
The day at the chase, and the night at the wine,
VIVALDI has left his young bride to pine,
To pine if she would: but not hers the eye
To droop in its weeping, the lip but to sigh;
There is rage in that eye, on that lip there is pride,
As it scorn'd the sorrow its scorn could not hide.

Oh! frail are the many links that are
In the chain of affection's tender care,
And light at first: but, alas! few know
How much watching is ask'd to keep them so.
The will that yields, and the winning smile
That soothes till anger forgets the while;
Words whose music never yet caught
The discord of one angry thought;
And all those nameless cares that prove
Their heaviest labour work of love.
Ay, these are spells to keep the heart,
When passion's thousand dreams depart:
But none of this sweet witchcraft came
To fan the young Count's waning flame.
Passionate as his own wild skies,
Rank and wealth seemed light sacrifice
To his German maiden's lowly state;
Chose he as chooses the wood-dove his mate:
But when his paradise was won,
It was not what his fancy had fed upon

Alas! when angry words begin
Their entrance on the lip to win;
When sullen eye and flushing cheek
Say more than bitterest tone could speak;
And look and word, than fire or steel,
Give wounds more deep, -- time cannot heal;
And anger digs, with tauntings vain,
A gulf it may not pass again.

Her lord is gone to some hunter's rite,
Where the red wine-cup passes night;
What now hath AGATHA at home?
And she has left it lone to roam.

But evil thoughts are on her, now
Sweeps the dark shadow o'er her brow.
What doth she forth at such an hour,
When hath the fallen fiend his power?

On through the black-pine forest she pass'd:
Drearily moaned around her the blast;
Hot and heavy the thick boughs grew,
Till even with pain her breath she drew;
Flicker'd the moonlight over her path,
As the clouds had gather'd together in wrath;
Like the vague hopes whose false lures give birth
To one half the miseries haunting our earth.
Maiden, ah! where is thy way address'd?
Where is the red cross that hung on thy breast,
Safety ard solace in danger and fear?
Both are around thee, -- why is it not near?
Enter not thou yon cursed dell.
Thy rash step has enter'd. Lost maiden, farewell!

Closed the huge and shapeless crags around,
There was not of life a sight or sound;
The earth was parch'd, the trees were sear'd,
And blasted every branch appear'd;
At one end yawned a gloomy cave,
Black, as its mouth were that of the grave;
And dark, as if the waters of death
Were in its depths, rose a well beneath.
But the deadliest sight of that deadly place
Was to gaze on the human wanderer's face;
Pale it was, as if fell despair
Had written its worst of lessons there;
The features set like funeral stone,
All of good or kind from their meaning gone;
And the look of defiance to heaven cast,
As if feeling such look must be the last.
Down she knelt by the well, to say
What never prayer may wash away.
It was not a sound that pass'd along,
Nor aught that might to our earth belong.
And her words at once in their terror died,
For the spirit she call'd on stood by her side;
Not one of those fearful shapes that teem
On the midnight fears of the maniac's dream.
But better she could have brook'd to gaze
On the loathliest semblance the grave displays,
Than to meet that brow, whose beauty and power
Had somewhat yet of their earlier hour,
Deeper the present contrast to show;
But pride still struggled in vain with woe,
And in the wild light of the fiery eye
Was written hell's immortality.
He spoke: -- "Now the vow of thy faith resign,
And in life or in death VIVALDI is thine.
Seal with thy blood." She bared her arm,
And the life-stream flow'd for the godless charm.
One single drop on her ring was shed,
And the diamond shone as the ruby red.
"Sealed mine own, now this be the sign
That in life or in death VIVALDI is thine."

Farewell, Allemagne, farewell to thy strand,
They are bound to another, a southern land.
As yet she is not to be own'd as his bride,
For feared VIVALDI his kinsmen's pride;
But safely their anchor at Venice is cast,
And the queen of the ocean is reached at last.
Long had AGATHA wished to see
The sunny vineyards of Italy.
Little was here of what she had dream'd:
Funeral-like the gondolas seem'd;
While the dark waters, parting beneath the oar,
Were too like those she had seen before;
And the Count, with his stern and haughty brow,
Seem'd the shadow of one ever present now.

Dreary it is the path to trace,
Step by step of sin's wild race.
Pass we on to a lovely night,
Shone the sea with silver moonlight;
Who would ever dream, but such time
Must be sacred from human crime?
I see two silent figures glide
Moodily by the radiant tide;
I see one fall, -- in AGATHA'S breast
VIVALDI'S dagger hath found a nest:
I hear a heavy plunge, the flood,
Oh! 'tis crimson with human blood;
I see a meteor shining fair,
It is the sweep of golden hair;
Float the waters from the shore,
The waves roll on, I see no more.

Long years have pass'd, -- VIVALDI'S name
Is foremost in the lists of fame.
Are there, then, spirits that may steep
Conscience in such a charmed sleep?
No; haggard eye and forehead pale
Tell sadly of a different tale;
And some said, not his wealth nor power
Could bribe them share his midnight hour.

'Tis morn, and shout and trumpet's call
Proclaim that it is festival;
The Doge VIVALDI weds to-day
The bride that owns his city's sway;
Banner and barge float o'er that bride, --
The peerless Adriatic tide.

The galleys paused, -- the ring he took.
Why starts the Doge with such wild look?
He bends again, his heart-streams creep;
A pale hand beckons from the deep;
All marvel that he doth not fling
To the sea-bride the marriage ring.
He heard the murmur; none then scann'd,
Save his own eye, the spectral hand!
He drops the ring, then bends again
To snatch it from that hand in vain.
He follows what he could not save,
One false step sinks him in the wave!
All rush the victim to restore,
But never eye beheld him more.

'Twas strange, for there they found the ring.
Some said it was fit gift to bring,
And lay upon the Virgin's shrine,
Of human vanity a sign.
And there, as if by miracle,
One drop of blood beneath it fell;
And, pale as twilight's earliest dew,
Lost the bright ring its ruby hue.
There still may curious eye behold
The relic. But my tale is told.

"Now welcome, fair MARGUERITE, to thee,
Fair flower of Provence minstrelsy."
Came a lovely lady in place,
Like the twilight star in her pensive grace.
White daisies were wreathed in the dark-brown shade
Of her tresses, parted in simple braid:
Her long eyelash was the shadow of night,
And the eye beneath was the morning bright;
For its colour was that of the diamond dew
Which had caught from the glancing light its hue:
Her cheek was pale, for its blush soon pass'd, --
Loveliest tints are not those which last;
Then again it redden'd, again was gone,
Like a rainbow, and rose in unison:
Her smile was sad, as if nature meant
Those lips to live in their own content;
But Fate pass'd o'er them her stern decree,
And taught them what suffering and sorrow might be:
And sang she in sweet but mournful tone,
As her heart had the misery it painted known.





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