Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE RING AND THE CASTLE, by AMY LOWELL

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE RING AND THE CASTLE, by                 Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography
First Line: Benjamin bailey, benjamin bailey, why do you wake
Last Line: "trees let me lie."
Subject(s): Love; Repentance; Sin; Unfaithfulness; Penitence; Infidelity; Adultery; Inconstancy

"Benjamin Bailey, Benjamin Bailey, why do you wake
at the stroke of three?"
"I heard the hoot of an owl in the forest, and the
creak of the wind in the alder-tree."

"Benjamin Bailey, Benjamin Bailey, why do you stare
so into the dark?"
"I saw white circles twining, floating, and in the
centre a molten spark."

"Why are you restless, Benjamin Bailey? Why do
you fling your arms so wide?"
"To keep the bat's wings from coming closer and
push the grey rat from my side."

"What are you muttering, Benjamin Bailey? The
room is quiet, the moon is clear."
"The trees of the forest are curling, swaying, writhing
over the heart of my Dear."

"Lie down and cover you, Benjamin Bailey, you're
raving, for never a wife or child
Has blessed your hearthstone; it is the fever, which
startles your brain with dreams so wild."

"No wife indeed," said Benjamin Bailey, and his blue
nails picked at the bedquilt's edge.
"I gathered a rose in another man's garden and hid it
from sight in a hawthorn hedge.

"I made her a chamber where green boughs rustled,
and plaited river-grass for the floor,
And three times ten moonlight nights I loved her,
with my old hound stretching before the door.

"Then out of the North a knight came riding, with
crested helm and pointed sword.
'Where is my wife,' said the knight to the people.
'My wife! My wife!' was his only word.

"He tied his horse to the alder yonder, and stooped
his crest to enter my door.
'My wife,' said the knight, and a steel-grey glitter
flashed from his armour across the floor.

"Then I lied to that white-faced knight, and told him
the lady had never been seen by me;
And when he had loosed his horse from the alder, I
bore him a mile of company.

"I turned him over the bridge to the valley, and waved
him Godspeed in the twilight grey.
And I laughed all night as I toyed with his lady,
clipping and kissing the hours away.

"The sun was kind and the wind was gentle, and the
green boughs over our chamber sang,
But on the Eastern breeze came a tinkle whenever the
bolls in the Abbey rang.

"Dang! went the bell and the lady hearkened, once, twice, thrice,
and her tears sprang forth.
''Twas three of the clock when I was wedded,' quoth
she,' in the castle to the North.'

"'They praised us for a comely couple, in truth my
Lord was a sight to see,
I gave him my troth for a golden dowry, and he gave
me this ring on the stroke of three.

"'Three years I lived with him fair and stately, and
then we quarrelled, as lovers will.
He swore I wed for his golden dowry, and I that he
loved another still.

"'I knew right well that never another had crossed the heart
of my Dearest Lord,
But still my rage waxed hot within me until, one
morning, I fled abroad.

"'All down the flickering isles of the forest I rode till
at twilight I sat me down,
And there a-weeping you found and took me, as one
lifts a leaf which the wind has blown.

"'But to-night my ring burns hot on my finger, and
my Lord's face shines through the curtained door.
And the bells beat heavy against my temples, two
long strokes, and one stroke more.

"'Loose me now, for your touch is terror, my heart is
a hollow, my arms are wind;
I must go out once more and wander, seeking the
forest for what I shall find.'

"Then I fell upon her and stifled her speaking till the
bells died away in the rustling breeze,
And so I held her dumb until morning with smoth-
ered lips, but I knew no ease.

"And every night that the bells came clearly, striking
three strokes, like a heavy stone,
I would seal her lips, but even as I kissed her, be-
hind her clenched teeth I could hear her moan.

"The nights grew longer, I had the lady, her pale blue
veins and her skin of milk,
But I might have been clasping a white wax image
straightly stretched on a quilt of silk.

"Then curdled anger foamed within me, and I tore at
her finger to take the ring,
The red gold ring which burned her spirit like some
bewitched, unhallowed thing.

"High in the boughs of our leafy chamber, the lady's
sorrowing died away.
All night I fought for the red gold circle, all night,
till the oak trees reddened to day.

"For two nights more I strove to take it, the red gold
circlet, the ring of fear,
But on the third in a blood-red vision I drew my
sword and cut it clear.

"Severed the ring and severed the finger, and slew my
Dear on the stroke of three;
Then I dug a grave beneath the oak trees, and buried
her there where none could see.

"I took the ring, and the bleeding finger, and sent a
messenger swiftly forth,
An amazing gift to my Lord I sent them, in his
lonely castle to the North.

"He died, they say, at the sight of my present, I laughed when I
heard it — 'Hee! Hee! Hee!'
But every night my veins run water and my pores
sweat blood at the stroke of three."

"Benjamin Bailey, Benjamin Bailey, seek repentance,
your time is past."
"My Dearest Dear lies under the oak-trees, pity indeed
that the ring held fast."

"Benjamin Bailey, Benjamin Bailey, sinners repent
when they come to die."
"Toll the bell in the Abbey tower, and under the oak-
trees let me lie."

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