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BELVOIR CASTLE; WRITTEN AT THE REQUEST OF DUCHESS OF RUTLAND, by                 Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography
First Line: When native britons british lands possess'd
Last Line: "and say, ""it long has stood, -- still honour'd let it stand.""'"
Subject(s): Castles

WHEN native Britons British lands possess'd,
Their glory freedom -- and their blessing rest --
A powerful chief this lofty Seat survey'd,
And here his mansion's strong foundation laid:
In his own ground the massy stone he sought,
From his own woods the rugged timbers brought;
Rudeness and greatness in his work combined, --
An humble taste with an aspiring mind.
His herds the vale, his flocks the hills, o'erspread;
Warriors and vassals at his table fed;
Sons, kindred, servants, waited on his will,
And hail'd his mansion on the mighty hill.
In a new age a Saxon Lord appear'd,
And on the lofty base his dwelling rear'd:
Then first the grand but threatening form was known,
And to the subject-vale a Castle shown,
Where strength alone appear'd, -- the gloomy wall
Enclosed the dark recess, the frowning hall;
In chilling rooms the sullen fagot gleam'd;
On the rude board the common banquet steam'd;
Astonish'd peasants fear'd the dreadful skill
That placed such wonders on their favourite hill:
The soldier praised it as he march'd around,
And the dark building o'er the valley frown'd.
A Norman Baron, in succeeding times,
Here, while the minstrel sang heroic rhymes,
In feudal pomp appear'd. It was his praise
A loftier dome with happier skill to raise;
His halls, still gloomy, yet with grandeur rose;
Here friends were feasted, -- here confined were foes.
In distant chambers, with her female train,
Dwelt the fair partner of his awful reign:
Curb'd by no laws, his vassal-tribe he sway'd, --
The Lord commanded, and the slave obey'd:
No soft'ning arts in those fierce times were found,
But rival Barons spread their terrors round;
Each, in the fortress of his power, secure,
Of foes was fearless, and of soldiers sure;
And here the chieftain, for his prowess praised,
Long held the Castle that his might had raised.
Came gentler times: -- the Barons ceased to strive
With kingly power, yet felt their pomp survive;
Impell'd by softening arts, by honour charm'd,
Fair ladies studied and brave heroes arm'd.
The Lord of Belvoir then his Castle view'd,
Strong without form, and dignified but rude;
The dark long passage, and the chambers small,
Recess and secret hold, he banish'd all,
Took the rude gloom and terror from the place,
And bade it shine with majesty and grace.
Then arras first o'er rugged walls appear'd,
Bright lamps at eve the vast apartment cheer'd;
In each superior room were polish'd floors,
Tall ponderous beds, and vast cathedral doors:
All was improved within, and then below
Fruits of the hardier climes were taught to grow;
The silver flagon on the table stood,
And to the vassal left the horn and wood.
Dress'd in his liveries, of his honours vain,
Came at the Baron's call a menial train;
Proud of their arms, his strength and their delight;
Loud in the feast, and fearless in the fight,
Then every eye the stately fabric drew
To every part; for all were fair to view:
The powerful chief the far-famed work descried,
And heard the public voice that waked his pride.
Pleased he began -- 'About, above, below,
What more can wealth command, or science show?
Here taste and grandeur join with massy strength;
Slow comes perfection, but it comes at length.
Still must I grieve: these halls and towers sublime,
Like vulgar domes, must feel the force of time;
And, when decay'd, can future days repair
What I in these have made so strong and fair?
My future heirs shall want of power deplore,
When Time destroys what Time can not restore.'
Sad in his glory, serious in his pride,
At once the chief exulted and he sigh'd;
Dreaming he sigh'd, and still, in sleep profound,
His thoughts were fix'd within the favourite bound;
When lo! another Castle rose in view,
That n an instant all his pride o'erthrew.
In that he saw what massy strength bestows,
And what from grace and lighter beauty flows,
Yet all harmonious; what was light and free,
Robb'd not the weightier parts of dignity --
Nor what was ponderous hid the work of grace,
But all were just, and all in proper place:
Terrace on terrace rose, and there was seen
Adorn'd with flowery knolls the sloping green,
Bounded by balmy shrubs from climes unknown,
And all the nobler trees that grace our own.
Above, he saw a giant-tower ascend,
That seem'd the neighbouring beauty to defend
Of some light graceful dome, -- 'And this,' he cried,
'Awakes my pleasure, though it wounds my pride.'
He saw apartments where appear'd to rise
What seem'd as men, and fix'd on him their eyes, --
Pictures that spoke; and there were mirrors tall,
Doubling each wonder by reflecting all.
He saw the genial board, the massy plate,
Grace unaffected, unencumber'd state;
And something reach'd him of the social arts,
That soften manners, and that conquer hearts.
Wrapt in amazement, as he gazed he saw
A form of heav'nly kind, and bow'd in awe:
The spirit view'd him with benignant grace,
And styled himself the Genius of the Place,
'Gaze, and be glad!' he cried, 'for this, indeed,
Is the fair Seat that shall to thine succeed,
When these famed kingdoms shall as sisters be,
And one great sovereign rule the powerful three:
Then yon rich Vale, far stretching to the west,
Beyond thy bound, shall be by one possess'd:
Then shall true grace and dignity accord --
With splendour, ease -- the Castle with its Lord.'
The Baron waked, -- 'It was,' he cried, 'a view
Lively as truth, and I will think it true:
Some gentle spirit to my mind has brought
Forms of fair works to be hereafter wrought;
But yet of mine a part will then remain,
Nor will that Lord its humbler worth disdain;
Mix'd with his mightier pile shall mine be found,
By him protected, and with his renown'd;
He who its full destruction could command,
A part shall save from the destroying hand,
And say, "It long has stood, -- still honour'd let it stand."'

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