Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE DEATH OF A.G.A, by EMILY JANE BRONTE



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THE DEATH OF A.G.A, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Were they shepherds, who sat all day
Last Line: That thy dear blood was poured in vain!'
Alternate Author Name(s): Bell, Ellis
Subject(s): Border Raids; Love


Were they shepherds, who sat all day
On that brown mountain-side?
But neither staff nor dog had they;
Nor woolly flock to guide --

They were clothed in savage attire;
Their locks were dark and long;
And at each belt a weapon dire
Like bandit-knives was hung --

One was a woman tall and fair;
A princess she might be
From her stately form and her features rare
And her look of majesty --

But oh, she had a sullen frown --
A lip of cruel scorn --
As sweet tears never melted down
Her cheeks since she was born!

'Twas well she had no sceptre to wield,
No subject land to sway;
Fear might have made her vassals yield
But Love had been far away --

Yet, Love was even at her feet
In his most burning mood --
That Love which will the Wicked greet
As kindly as the Good --

And he was noble too, who bowed
So humbly by her side --
Entreating, till his eyes o'erflowed,
Her spirit's icy pride --

'Angelica, from my very birth
I have been nursed in strife,
And lived upon this weary Earth
A wanderer, all my life;

'The baited tiger could not be
So much athirst for gore,
For men and laws have tortured me
Till I can bear no more --

'The guiltless blood upon my hands
Will shut me out from Heaven
And here, and even in foreign lands
I cannot find a haven --

'And in all space, and in all time,
And through Eternity,
To aid a Spirit lost in crime,
I have no hope but thee --

'Yet will I swear, No saint on high
A truer faith could prove --
No angel, from that holy sky,
Could give thee purer love!

'For thee, through never ending years
I'd suffer endless pain;
But only give me back my tears
Return my love again!'

Many a time, unheeded, thus
The reckless man would pray;
But something woke an answering flush
On his lady's brow today,
And her eye flashed flame, as she turned to speak,
In concord with her reddening cheek --

'I've known a hundred kinds of love --
All made the loved one rue;
And what is thine, that it should prove,
Than other love, more true?

'Listen, I've known a burning heart
To which my own was given
Nay, not in passion; do not start --
Our love was love from heaven:
At least, if heavenly love be born
In the pure light of childhood's morn
Long ere the poison-tainted air
From this world's plague-fen rises there:

'That heart was like a tropic sun
That kindles all it shines upon;
And never Magian devotee
Gave worship half so warm as I
And never radiant bow could be
So welcome in a stormy sky
My soul dwelt with her day and night
She was my all sufficing light --
My childhood's mate, my girlhood's guide
My only blessing, only pride

'But cursed be the very earth
That gave that fiend her fatal birth!
With her own hand she bent the bow
That laid my best affections low --
Then mocked my grief and scorned my prayers
And drowned my bloom of youth in tears --
Warnings, reproaches, both were vain;
What recked she of another's pain?

My dearer self she would not spare --
From Honour's voice she turned his ear:
First made her love his only stay;
Then snatched the treacherous prop away!
Douglas, he pleaded bitterly --
He pleaded as you plead to me,
For life-long chains or timeless tomb
Or any, but an Exile's doom --
We both were scorned -- both sternly driven
To shelter 'neath a foreign heaven;
And darkens o'er that dreary time
A wildering dream of frenzied crime --
I will not now those days recall;
The oath within that caverned hall
And its fulfilment, those you know:
We both together struck the blow:
But -- you can never know the pain
That my lost heart did then sustain
When, severed wide by guiltless gore,
I felt that one could love no more!
Back maddening thought! -- the grave is deep
Where my Amedeus lies asleep,
And I have long forgot to weep --

'Now hear me, in these regions wild
I saw today my enemy
Unarmed, as helpless as a child
She slumbered on a sunny lea;
Two friends -- no other guard had she;
And they were wandering on the braes;
And chasing in regardless glee,
The wild goat o'er his dangerous ways --
My hand was raised -- my knife was bare;
With stealthy tread I stole along
But a wild bird sprang from his hidden lair
And woke her with a sudden song:
Yet moved she not; she only raised
Her lids and on the bright sun gazed
And uttered such a dreary sigh
I thought just then she should not die
Since living was such misery --
Now Douglas, for our hunted band --
For future joy and former woe
Assist me, with thy heart and hand
To send to hell my mortal foe --
Her friends fall first, that she may drain
A deeper cup of bitterer pain;
Yonder they stand and watch the waves
Dash in among the echoing caves --
Their farewell sight of earth and sea;
Come, Douglas, rise and go with me' --

The lark sang clearly overhead
And sweetly hummed the Bee
And softly, round their dying bed,
The wind blew from the sea --

Fair Surry would have raised her eyes
To see that water shine;
To see once more in mountain skies
The summer sun decline:

But ever, on her fading cheek,
The languid lid would close
As weary that such light should break
Its much-desired repose --

And she was waning fast away --
Even Memory's voice grew dim;
Her former life's eventful day
Had dwindled to a dream:

And hardly could her mind recall
One thought of joy or pain;
That cloud was gathering over all
Which never clears again!

In vain -- in vain, you need not gaze
Upon those features now!
That sinking head you need not raise,
Nor kiss that pulseless brow --

Let out the grief that chokes your breath;
Lord Lesley, set it free:
The sternest eye, for such a death
Might fill with sympathy.

The tresses o'er her bosom spread
Were by a faint breeze blown;
'Her heart is beating,' Lesley said;
'She is not really gone!'

And still that form he fondly pressed,
And still of hope he dreamed
Nor marked how from his own young breast
Life's crimson current streamed --

At last, the sunshine left the ground,
The laden bee flew home,
The deep down sea, with sadder sound
Impelled its waves to foam;

And the corpse grew heavy on his arm,
The starry heaven grew dim,
The summer night so mild and warm
Felt wintery chill to him.

A troubled shadow, o'er his eye
Came down, and rested there;
The moors and sky went swimming by
Confused and strange and drear

He faintly prayed, 'Oh, Death, delay
Thy last fell dart to throw
Till I can hear my Sovereign say,
The traitors' heads are low!

'God, guard her life, since not to me
That dearest boon was given;
God, bless her arm with victory
Or bless not me with heaven!'

Then came the cry of agony;
The pang of parting pain;
And he had overpassed the sea
That none can pass again.

Douglas leaned above the well;
Heather banks around him rose;
Bright and warm the sunshine fell
On that spot of sweet repose --

With the blue heaven bending o'er
And the soft wind singing by
And the clear stream, evermore
Mingling harmony --

On the shady side reclined,
He watched its waters play
And sound and sight had well combined
To banish gloom away --

A voice spoke near -- 'She'll come,' it said
'And Douglas, thou shalt be
My love, although the very dead
Should rise to rival thee!

'Now, only let thine arm be true
And nerved, like mine, to kill;
And Gondal's royal race shall rue
This day on Elmor Hill!'

They wait not long, the rustling heath
Betrays their royal foe;
With hurried step and panting breath
And cheek almost as white as death,
Augusta sprang below --

Yet marked she not where Douglas lay
She only saw the well;
The tiny fountain, churning spray
Within its mossy cell --

'Oh, I have wrongs to pay,' she cried,
'Give life, give vigour now!'
And, stooping by the water's side,
She drank its crystal flow.

And brightly, with that draught, came back
The glory of her matchless eye
As, glancing o'er the moorland track,
She shook her head impatiently --

Nor shape, nor shade -- the mountain flocks
Quietly feed in grassy dells;
Nor sound, except the distant rocks
Echoing to their bells.

She turns -- she meets the Murderer's gaze:
Her own is scorched with a sudden blaze --
The blood streams down her brow;
The blood streams through her coal-black hair --
She strikes it off with little care;
She scarcely feels it flow,
For she has marked and known him too
And his own heart's ensanguined dew
Must slake her vengeance now!

False friend! no tongue save thine can tell
The mortal strife that then befell:
But, ere night darkened down
The stream in silence sang once more
And, on its green bank, bathed in gore
Augusta lay alone!

False Love! no earthly eye did see,
Yet Heaven's pure eye regarded thee
Where thy own Douglas bled --
How thou didst turn in mockery
From his last hopeless agony
And leave the hungry hawk to be
Sole watcher of the dead!

Was it a deadly swoon?
Or was her spirit really gone?
And the cold corpse, beneath the moon
Laid like another mass of dust and stone?

The moon was full that night
The sky was almost like the day:
You might have seen the pulse's play
Upon her forehead white;

You might have seen the dear, dear sign of life
In her uncovered eye
And her cheek changing in the mortal strife
Betwixt the pain to live and agony to die.

But nothing mutable was there!
The face, all deadly fair,
Showed a fixed impress of keen suffering past,
And the raised lid did show
No wandering gleam below
But a stark anguish, self-destroyed at last --

Long he gazed and held his breath,
Kneeling on the blood-stained heath;
Long he gazed those lids beneath
Looking into Death!

Not a word from his followers fell,
They stood by, mute and pale;
That black treason uttered well
Its own heart-harrowing tale --

But earth was bathed in other gore:
There were crimson drops across the moor
And Lord Eldred, glancing round
Saw those tokens on the ground:

'Bring him back!' he hoarsely said,
'Wounded is the traitor fled --
Vengeance may hold but minutes brief
And you have all your lives for grief --'

He is left alone -- he sees the stars
Their quiet course continuing
And, far away, down Elmor scars
He hears the stream its waters fling:

That lulling monotone did sing
Of broken rock and shaggy glen,
Of welcome for the moorcock's wing,
But, not of wail for men!

Nothing in heaven or earth to show
One sign of sympathizing woe --
And nothing but that agony
In her now unconscious eye
To weigh upon the labouring breast
And prove she did not pass at rest --
But he who watched, in thought had gone
Retracing back her lifetime flown;
Like sudden ghosts, to memory came
Full many a face, and many a name,
Full many a heart, that in the tomb
He almost deemed might have throbbed again
Had they but known her dreary doom,
Had they but seen their idol there,
A wreck of desolate despair,
Left to the wild birds of the air
And mountain winds and rain!
For him -- no tear his stern eye shed
As he looked down upon the dead --
'Wild morn' -- he thought -- 'and doubtful noon;
But yet it was a glorious sun
Though comet-like its course was run:
That sun should never have been given
To burn and dazzle in the heaven
Or night has quenched it far too soon!
And thou art gone -- with all thy pride,
Thou, so adored, so deified!
Cold as the earth, unweeting now
Of love, or joy, or mortal woe --

'For what thou wert, I would not grieve,
But much, for what thou wert to be --
That life, so stormy and so brief,
That death, has wronged us more than thee!
Thy passionate youth was nearly past
The opening sea seemed smooth at last
Yet vainly flowed the calmer wave
Since fate had not decreed to save --
And vain too must the sorrow be
Of those who live to mourn for thee;
But Gondal's foes shall not complain
That thy dear blood was poured in vain!'





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