Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, BLACK RANALD, by PHOEBE CARY

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BLACK RANALD, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: In the time when the little flowers are born
Last Line: And kisses her first, a bride!
Subject(s): Kidnapping; Rescues; Love; Weddings

IN the time when the little flowers are born,
The joyfulest time of the year,
Fair Marion from the Hall rode forth
To chase the fleet red deer.

She moved among her comely maids
With such a stately mien
That they seemed like humble violets
By the side of a lily queen.

For she, of beauties fair, was named
The fairest in the land;
And lovelorn youths had pined and died
For the clasp of her lady hand.

But never suitor yet had pressed
Her dainty finger-tips;
And never cheek that wore a beard
Had touched her maiden lips.

She laughed and danced, she laughed and sang;
She bade her lovers wait;
Till the gallant Stuart Graeme, one morn,
Checked rein at her father's gate.

She blushed and sighed; she laughed no more;
She sang a low refrain;
And, when the bold young Stuart wooed,
He did not woo in vain.

And now, as to the chase she rides,
Across her father's land,
She wears a bright betrothal ring
Upon her snowy hand.

She loosed the rein, she touched the flank
Of her royal red-roan steed.
"Now, who among my friends," she said,
"Will vie with me in speed?"

She looked at Graeme before them all,
Though her face was rosy red.
"He who can catch me as I ride
Shall be my squire," she said.

Away! they scarce can follow
Even with their eager eyes;
She clears the stream, she skims the plain
Swift as the swallow flies.

Alack! no charger in the train
Can match with hers to-day;
The very deer-hounds, left behind,
Are yelling in dismay.

Far out upon the lonely moor
Her speed she checks at last;
One single horseman follows her,
With hoof-strokes gaining fast.

She's smiling softly to herself,
She's speaking soft and low:
"None but the gallant Stuart Graeme
Could follow where I go!"

She wheels her horse; she sees a sight
That makes her pulses stand;
Her very cheek, but now so red,
Grows whiter than her hand.

For, while no friend she sees the way
Her frightened eyes look back,
Black Ranald, of the Haunted Tower,
Is close upon her track!

He's gained her side; he's seized her rein --
The cruelest man in the land;
And he has clasped her virgin waist
With his wicked, wicked hand.

She feels his breath upon her face,
She hears his mocking tone,
As he lifts her from her red-roan steed
And sets her on his own.

"Proud Mistress Marion," he cries,
"In spite of all your scorn,
Black Ranald is your squire to-day,
He'll be your lord at morn!"

She hears no more, she sees no more,
For many a weary hour,
Till from her deadly swoon she wakes
In Ranald's Haunted Tower.

For, in the highest turret there,
With never a friend in call,
He has tied her hands with a silver chain
And bound them to the wall.

She fears no ghosts that haunt the dark,
But she fears the coming dawn;
And her heart grows sick when at day she hears
The prison-bolts withdrawn.

She summons all her strength, as they
Who for the headsman wait;
And she prays to every virgin saint
To help her in her strait;

For she sees her jailer cross the sill.
"Now, if you will wed with me,"
He said, "henceforth of my house and land
You shall queen and ruler be."

"Bold Ranald of the Tower," she said,
"With heart as black as your name,
I will only be the bride of Death
Or the bride of Stuart Graeme.

"I will make the coldest, darkest bed
In the dismal church-yard mine,
And lay me down to sleep in it,
Or ever I sleep in thine!"

"I shall tame you yet, proud girl," he cried,
"For you shall not be free,
Nor bread nor wine shall pass your lips
Till you vow to wed with me!"

She turned; she laughed in his very face:
"Sir Knave, your threats are vain;
Nor bread nor wine shall pass my lips
Till I am free again!"

He echoed back her mocking laugh,
He turned him on his heel;
When something smote upon his ear
Like the ringing clang of steel.

The bolts are snapped; the strong door falls;
The Graeme is standing there;
And a hundred armed men at his back
Are swarming up the stair!

Black Ranald put his horn to his lips
And blew a warning note.
"Your followers lie," brave Stuart said,
"Six deep within the moat!

"Alone, a prisoner in your tower,
Now yield, or you are dead!"
Black Ranald gnashed his teeth in rage,
"I yield to none," he said.

They drew their swords. "Now die the death,"
Said Graeme, "you merit well."
And as he spake, at Marion's feet
The lifeless Ranald fell.

The Stuart raised the death-pale maid;
He broke her silver chain;
He bore her down, and set her safe
On her good red-roan again.

Now closely at his side she rides,
Nor heeds them one and all;
And his hand ne'er quits her bridle-rein
Till they reach her father's Hall.

Then the glad sire clasps that hand in his own,
While the tears to his beard drop slow;
"You have saved my child and rid the land,"
He cries, "of a cruel foe;

"And if this maiden say not nay," --
Her cheeks burned like a flame, --
"Then you shall be my son to-night,
And she shall bear your name."

They have set the lights in every room;
They have spread the wedding-feast;
And from the neighboring cloister's cell
They have brought the holy priest.

And she is a captive once again --
The timid, tender dove!
For she slipped the silver chain to wear
The golden chain of love!

Sweet Marion, under her snow-white veil,
Stands fast by her captor's side,
As he binds her hands with the marriage-ring
And kisses her first, a bride!

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