Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, ARTHUR AND ALBINA, by MATILDA BARBARA BETHAM-EDWARDS

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

ARTHUR AND ALBINA, by                 Poet's Biography
First Line: Ah me! The yellow western sky turns pale
Last Line: And bowed her humble, grateful head, resigned.
Alternate Author Name(s): Betham, Mary Matilda; Edwards, Matilda B.; Edwards, B. M.
Subject(s): Great Britain - Roman Conquest

'AH me! the yellow western sky turns pale,
And leaves the cheerless sons of earth to mourn;
And yet I hear not in the silent vale,
A sound to tell me Arthur does return.

Ah, haste ye hours! quick plume the loit'ring wing!
Bring back my hero, crowned with glorious spoils!
Let bards on lofty harps his triumphs sing,
And loud applause repay successful toils!

Reward the flame, ye great celestial pow'rs,
The noble flame that in his bosom glows!
Inspire him, Druids, from your holy bow'rs,
With strength to conquer iron-breasted foes!

With heightened vigour brace his nervous arm,
And let his lance with ten-fold fury fly,
Make him terrific by some potent charm,
And add new light'ning to his piercing eye!

Then may my lover gain unrivalled fame,
The Roman banners may less proudly flow,
Then he may humble their detested name,
And their high plumes wave over a British brow!

Then may his chariot, wheeling over the plain,
Hurl death and desolation all around,
While his intrepid front appals their train,
And make our proud invaders bite the ground!

But yet I hear no lively foot advance;
No sound of triumph greets my list'ning ear!
And I may carve this eagle-darting lance
For one, whose voice I never more shall hear!

Perhaps my vows have never reached the skies,
Nor hear'n, propitious, smiled upon my pray'r;
And ah! to morrow's crimson dawn may rise
To plunge me in the horrors of despair!

Yet well he knows the dreadful spear to wield --
Alas! their fearful limbs are fenced with care:
And, what can valour, when the extended shield
May leave, so oft, his gen'rous bosom bare?

Say, reverend Druids, can you bless in vain?
Can you in vain extend your spotless hands?
Will not heaven listen when its priests complain,
And save its altars from unhallowed bands?

Oh yes! I'll fear no more! The sacred groves,
That rear their untouched branches to the skies;
Beneath whose shade its chosen servant roves,
Hidden from weak, unconsecrated eyes:

Beneath whose shade the choral bards rehearse,
Piercing, with upraised eyes, each mist that shrouds,
And, listening, catch the heaven-dictated verse,
By airs etherial wafted from the clouds:

It never can be -- but hark! I hear the sound
Of some one's step; yet not the youth I love;
He would have flown, and scarcely touched the ground,
Not ling'ring thus, with weary caution, move.

The heavy wanderer approaches nigh,
But the drear darkness skreens him from my view:
Ah, gracious heaven! it was my Arthur's sigh,
Which the unwilling breeze so faintly blew.

Oh speak! inform me what I have to fear!
Speak, and relieve my doubting, trembling heart!
To thy Albina, with a tongue sincere,
A portion of thy wretchedness impart!'

"Sweet maid," replied the wounded, dying youth,
In accents mournful, tremulous and slow,
"Yes, I will ever answer thee with truth,
"While yet the feeble tide of life shall flow.

"We made the haughty Roman chiefs retire,
"The tow'ring, sacrilegious eagle flew;
"Our bosoms swelled with more than mortal fire,
"When from the field indignant they withdrew.

"But ill bespeaks my faint and languid tongue,
"The glowing beauties of that joyful sight;
"Ill can my breast, with keenest torture wrung,
"Dwell on the charming terrors of the fight.

"To others then I leave the envied strain,
"Which shall for ages rend the British air;
"Nor will thy partial ear expect, in vain,
"To find the humble name of Arthur there,

"I go, while now the victory is warm,
"The just reward of valour to obtain;
"Soon I return, clad in a nobler form,
"Again to triumph, and again be slain.

"Ah! then, my dear Albina, cease to grieve,
"Nor at thy lover's glorious fate repine;
"For, though my present favoured form I leave,
"This constant heart shall still be only thine.

"Alas! e'en now I feel the icy hand
"Of hasty death, press down my swelling heart;
"E'en now I hear a sweet aerial band,
"Summon thy faithful Arthur to depart.

"Let not thy tears an absent lover mourn,
"Remember that he bravely, nobly died;
"Remember that he quickly will return,
"And claim again his loved, his destined bride."

As thus the warrior's fainting spirits fled,
And parting life streamed forth at every vein,
His quivering lip, in whispers, softly said,
"Remember, Arthur dies to live again!"

"Oh stay, dear youth!" the hapless maiden cries,
"My best-loved Arthur, but one moment stay!
"And close not yet those all-enlivening eyes,
"So lately lighted at the torch of day.

"Ah! yet once more, that look of tender love,
"Of fond regret, my Arthur, let me view!
"Let one more effort thy affection prove,
"And bid me once, once more, a long adieu.

"Now, ere the moon withdraws her feeble light,
"Ope yet again on me thy fading eye!
"He hears not! memory has ta'en her flight,
"And vanished with that last convulsive sigh.

Why did I variegated wreaths prepare,
"To pay the conqueror every honor due?
"Or, why, with fillets, bind my flowing hair,
"And tinge my arms of the bright azure hue?

"Oh! must this constant bosom beat no more?
"This skilful hand no more direct the spear?
"Must lost Albina still her fate deplore,
"And ever drop the unavailing tear?

"Must I no more that lovely face review,
"Expressing each emotion of the mind?
"No more repeat a sweetly sad adieu?
"No more gay chaplets on his forehead bind?

"His forehead, high and fair, with martial grace,
"And bold, free curls of glossy chesnut crowned;
"The full, dark eye-brow which adorned his face,
"Overwhelming foes with terror as he frowned.

"His voice, though strong, harmoniously clear,
"No more shall fill Albina with delight;
"No more shall sooth her still-attentive ear,
"And make her fancy every sorrow light.

"Farewell to love, to happiness, and joy!
"Yet will I cull the summer's choicest bloom;
"Funereal chaplets shall my time employ,
"And wither daily on my Arthur's tomb."

As thus she mourned, with bitterest woe opprest,
A ray of light illumined all the grove,
And a consoling voice the fair addrest,
In the soft accents of parental love.

Though still she clasped her hero's valued corse,
She slowly raised her languid, streaming eyes,
And owned astonishment's resistless force,
Viewing the stranger with a wild surprize.

The form was clad in robes of purest white,
That swept with solemn dignity the ground;
Contrasting with the blackest gloom of night,
Which reigned in awful majesty around.

The silver beard did reverence demand,
And told her that a holy bard was there,
Whose shrivelled fingers grasped a flaming brand,
Which threw a lustre on the waving hair.

His eye possessed the brilliant fire of youth,
United with the wisdom of the sage;
And speaking, with the simple voice of truth,
He blended the solemnity of age.

"Arise! thou loveliest of misfortune's train,
"And cease these weak, desponding tears to shed;
"The soft effusions of thy grief restrain,
"Which serve but to disturb the peaceful dead.

"The youth you mourn, far from these scenes of woe,
"To worlds of never-ending joy is flown;
"Where his blest bosom with delight shall glow,
"And his fair temples wear a princely crown.

"Ah then, presumptuous! question not the skies,
"Nor more with vain laments his loss deplore;
"Attend to this, and cease your fruitless sighs,
"You soon shall meet where you can part no more."

Awe-struck, his sacred wisdom she confest,
Which poured sweet consolation on her mind;
She crossed her blood-stained hands upon her breast,
And bowed her humble, grateful head, resigned.

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