Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE OUTLAW, by MATILDA BARBARA BETHAM-EDWARDS



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THE OUTLAW, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Before the fair aurora spread
Last Line: "the foreign lord no more appear."
Alternate Author Name(s): Betham, Mary Matilda; Edwards, Matilda B.; Edwards, B. M.
Subject(s): Fathers & Daughters; Percy, William De (1030-1096)


BEFORE the fair Aurora spread
Her azure mantle over the skies,
While sleep its pleasing influence shed,
On grateful mortals weary eyes.

Emerged from a surrounding wood,
On a bleak mountain's sullen brow,
A solitary outlaw stood,
And viewed, through mist, the world below.

With deep regret his bosom fraught,
His arms were wreathed in sorrow's knot;
Nor seemed he yet, by patience taught,
To bear submissively his lot.

Hidden was each enlivening grace;
Deprest by his untimely doom;
A hectic flush overspread his face,
Instead of nature's florid bloom.

Untutored in the school of grief,
His pining spirit spoke in sighs;
Though almost hopeless of relief,
He looked around with eager eyes;

And fondly bent an anxious ear,
To the slow murmuring of the breeze,
Essaying oft, in vain, to hear
A friendly step beneath the trees.

"Delusive wish!" at last he cried,
"Why wilt thou fill my aching breast?
"And thus my miseries deride,
"By telling how I might be blest.

"No kind consolers hither bend,
"By sympathy to ease my care;
"Here comes no ever-faithful friend,
"Who yet might shield me from despair.

"The abbey's well-known tow'r to seek,
"It fades from my impassioned eye;
"The fancied outlines softly break,
"And melt into the distant sky.

"No pitying object now remains,
"That I may know those scenes are near,
"Where generous love and friendship reigns,
"And Alwin's name may claim a tear.

"And you, my loved paternal groves,
"Where I no more must shew my head;
"In your fair walks a stranger roves,
"And treacherous Normans daily tread!

"E'en now their presence may prophane
"The halls where Herbert did reside!
"E'en now may joy and gladness reign,
"And Adelaide be Percy's bride.

"Yet no! her soul, the seat of truth,
"Would never a second love receive!
"The sacred vows of artless youth,
"Her Alwin ever shall believe!

"They still shall comfort my sad heart,
"And sooth the anguish of my mind;
"Shall still a cheering hope impart,
"And make me somewhat more resigned.

"Ah! yet I hear her trembling hand,
"Withdraw the bolt to set me free!
"Yet hear the hasty, kind command,
"My Alwin fly, and live for me!

"No other can obtain my love!
"I would for thee the world resign!
"Then let thy prompt obedience prove
"That thou art truly, wholly mine."

"And ever to her promise true,
"No pleasure shall her soul elate,
"For, yet her constant thoughts pursue
"A wretched Outlaw's hapless fate!

"In vain proud Ranulph shall upbraid,
"My Adelaide is still the same!
"And, for thy sake, dear, lovely maid,
"I will not curse the Norman name!

"Not, though my father's large domains,
"Are plundered by the murderous bands;
"And my Northumbria's fertile plains,
"Lie wasted by their cruel hands;

"Though, as a son, I mourn the fate
"Of those, to whom my life I owe;
"And, hate the hearts that thus create
"The dimness of severest woe;

"Though I behold no friendly steel,
"To give my Emma vengeance, drawn;
"And though a brother's pangs I feel,
"To know her destitute, forlorn;

"Though, banished from the sight of day,
"In dreary solitude I pine;
"And, forced to feel a tyrant's sway,
"Each dear paternal right resign;

"Yet will I seal my lips; nor dare
"To extricate my haughty foes:
"The hateful, guilty root I spare,
"Which can produce so fair a rose.

"But thou, my heart, wilt thou be calm?
"Oh! tell me, can reflection cease;
"And this fond bosom, now so warm,
"Be ever tranquillized to peace!

"Ah, no! a father's scornful eye
"Is ever present to my view;
"And tells me, Herbert dared to die,
"Though Normans could his son subdue.

"Each feeble plea his soul disdains,
"They cannot for the fault atone;
"Though, when I left Northumbria's plains,
"I had not fifteen summers known.

"And hear me, Herbert, when I swear
"It was not fear that urged my flight;
"A worthless life was not my care,
"I thought but of a parent's right.

"Then pardon that my youth complyed,
"To ease a mother's anxious fears
"That, when I rather would have died,
"I yielded to a sister's tears.

"Alas! a peasant's humble shed,
"Soon saw our sainted parents' death,
"Who, while our hearts in anguish bled,
"With pious hopes resigned her breath.

"When mists foretel the evening near,
"And clouds of chilling dew arise,
"We sought the grave of her so dear,
"And offered there our tears and sighs.

"'Till mild reflection lent her aid,
"And bade our filial sorrows cease;
"The fever of our souls allayed,
"We sunk into a mournful peace.

"My pensive bosom strove to keep
"A dying mother's last request;
"I let the thoughts of vengeance sleep,
"And studied to make Emma blest.

"No longer shunning of tile dawn,
"Or seeking the sequestered shade,
"I called my sister to the lawn,
"And trod with her the flow'ry glade.

"Submitting to our wayward fate,
"I talked not of the treasures flown;
"But still seemed easy and sedate,
"While pressing verdure not my own.

"Then all I wished, and all I feared,
"Was by fraternal love inspired;
"And one, by every tie endeared,
"The only friend my soul desired.

"Yet soon that pleasing calmness fled,
"A Norman beauty won my heart,
"Imperious love my footsteps led,
"And bade all secrecy depart.

"I owned the splendour of my race,
"Altho' a peasant's form I bore;
"I fancied silence was disgrace,
"And hid my sentiments no more.

"Her father's tongue my fate decreed,
"And doomed great Herbert's son to shame;
"For, tho' by love from prison freed,
"I bear an outlaw's hateful name.

"My sister no fond friend can shield,
"No relative allay her grief;
"For tyranny all hearts hath steeled,
"And nought can give her soul relief.

"With ev'ry quality to charm,
"A guardian will not heaven allow,
"To screen thy artless youth from harm,
"And, fair deserted! help thee now!

"No aid, no comfort, can be nigh!
"And shall thy brother here remain?
"Has he not fortitude to fly,
"And burst the heavy, servile chain?

"Why should I linger here alone,
"Unseen by every human eye?
"To live unfriended and unknown,
"And in this dreary desart die.

"For now the sun-beams gild the sky,
"And give the misty morning grace,
"Far from the light I'm doomed to fly,
"Abandoned by the human race.

"But no! I'll bear suspense no more!
"Too dear a price to purchase breath;
"I'll seek the scenes I yet deplore,
"And meet a welcome, wished for death."

Tortured to frenzy, Alwin flew,
And as he left his sad retreat,
He, turning, looked a last adieu,
And shook the dew-drops from his feet.

His hurried steps nor pressed the ground,
Nor pointed out the path he came;
And, though so long the way he found,
Despair buoyed up his fainting frame.

The sun shot forth,a feeble ray,
But hid his glorious orb from sight,
And the pale evening's modest grey,
Had softened the too-glaring light,

When Alwin reached the humble cot,
That once he did with Emma share,
And, weeping, hailed the well-known spot,
In vain, for Emma was not there.

Repulsed, he turned his languid eye,
Where Ranulph's lofty turrets rose;
And, heaving disappointment's sigh,
He sought the mansion of his foes.

His faltering step, when there he came,
A proud, disdainful air possest;
Memory recalled his former shame,
And indignation filled his breast.

He entered, in his wild attire,
With hasty pace and haggard brow,
Scorn filled his azure eye with fire,
And gave his cheeks a deeper glow.

A graceful knight who met his view,
Sat pleading by a lady's side;
And Alwin's jealous bosom knew
Lord Percy, and his fated bride.

Mistaken youth! thy eyes have seen,
The persons pictured in thy mind;
But who is that, with pensive mien,
And forehead on her hand reclined?

Over whom Lord Ranulph fondly bends,
With sorrow seated on his brow;
While the regretting tear descends
Over his pale cheek, in silent woe.

"Ah! is it thus?" sad Alwin said,
The fancied bride the accents knew,
Lord Percy raised his drooping head,
And lovely Emma met his view.

Then rapture and surprize prevailed,
Each bosom felt confused delight;
While his return the mourner hailed,
And thus his sorrows did requite.

"O, dearest Alwin, now no more
"My father disapproves our flame;
"No longer we thy loss deplore,
"Or tremble to pronounce thy name.

"A noble friend has gained our cause,
"And vanquished all his former hate;
"Who, ere he owned a lover's laws,
"With generous tears had wept thy fate."

"Yes, injured youth," Lord Ranulph cried,
"Thou art this day my chosen heir;
"In Adelaide behold thy bride,
"Thy sister's future husband, there.

"Lord Percy, to a candid mind,
"Unites a fervour like thy own;
"And Emma, not to merit blind,
"Refers his cause to thee alone.

"If thou wilt grant his fond desire,
"'Twill gain a brave, a noble friend;
"And the possessions of thy sire,
"To his posterity descend."

"And did my Emma stay to hear,
"Her brother sanctify her choice?
"Ah Percy! now you need not fear
"From Alwin, a dissenting voice.

"Blest in my love, in Emma blest,
"My heart each cherished wish obtains;
"Northumbrians, now no more opprest,
"Shall own a son of Herbert reigns.

"May ye rebuild the peasant's cot,
"Exalt the woe-depressed head,
"And over each desolated spot,
"The fostering calm of quiet spread!

"May sterne reserve and caution cease!
"With lenient hand dispense your sway;
"Give them the healing balm of peace,
"Their wounded spirits will obey.

"Ah! cheer their gloom! dispel their care!
"The smile will soon replace the tear;
"And, wedded to a Saxon fair,
"The foreign lord no more appear."







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