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THE LADY OF THE BLACK TOWER, by             Poem Explanation         Poet's Biography
First Line: Watch no more the twinkling stars
Last Line: "to prove myself, sweet lady, thine."
Subject(s): Love - Loss Of; Soldiers; War


"Watch no more the twinkling stars;
Watch no more the chalky bourne;
Lady! from the Holy wars
Never will thy Love return!
Cease to watch, and cease to mourn,
Thy Lover never will return!

"Watch no more the yellow moon,
Peering o'er the mountain's head;
Rosy day, returning soon,
Will see thy Lover, pale and dead!
Cease to weep, and cease to mourn,
Thy Lover will no more return!

"Lady, in the Holy wars,
Fighting for the Cross, he died;
Low he lies, and many scars
Mark his cold and mangled side;
In his winding-sheet he lies,
Lady! check those rending sighs.

"Hark! the hollow sounding gale
Seems to sweep in murmurs by,
Sinking slowly down the vale;
Wherefore, gentle Lady, sigh?
Wherefore moan, and wherefore sigh?
Lady! all that live must die.

"Now the stars are fading fast:
Swift their brilliant course are run;
Soon shall dreary night be past:
Soon shall rise the cheering sun!
The sun will rise to gladden thee:
Lady, Lady, cheerful be."

So spake a voice! While sad and lone,
Upon a lofty tower, reclin'd,
A Lady sat: the pale moon shone,
And sweetly blew the summer wind;
Yet still, disconsolate in mind,
The lovely Lady sat reclin'd.

The lofty tow'r was ivy clad;
And round a dreary forest rose;
The midnight bell was tolling sad—
'Twas tolling for a soul's repose!
The Lady heard the gates unclose,
And from her seat in terror rose.

The summer moon shone bright and clear;
She saw the castle gates unclose;
And now she saw four monks appear,
Loud chanting for a soul's repose.
Forbear, oh, Lady! look no more—
They pass'd—a livid corpse they bore.

They pass'd, and all was silent now;
The breeze upon the forest slept;
The moon stole o'er the mountain's brow;
Again the Lady sigh'd, and wept:
She watch'd the holy fathers go
Along the forest path below.

And now the dawn was bright, the dew
Upon the yellow heath was seen;
The clouds were of a rosy hue,
The sunny lustre shone between:
The Lady to the chapel ran,
While the slow matin prayer began.

And then, once more, the fathers grey
She mark'd, employ'd in holy prayer:
Her heart was full, she cou'd not pray,
For love and fear were masters there.
Ah, Lady! thou wilt pray ere long
To sleep those lonely aisles among!

And now the matin prayers were o'er;
The barefoot monks, of order grey,
Were thronging to the chapel door,
When there the Lady stopp'd the way:
"Tell me," she cried, "whose corpse so pale,
Last night ye bore along the vale?"

"Oh, Lady! question us no more:
No corpse did we bear down the dale!"
The Lady sunk upon the floor,
Her quivering lip was deathly pale.
The barefoot monks now whisper'd, sad,
"God grant our Lady be not mad."

The monks departing, one by one,
The chapel gates in silence close;
When from the alter steps, of stone,
The trembling Lady feebly goes:
While the morning sheds a ruby light,
The painted windows glowing bright.

And now she heard a hollow sound;
It seem'd to come from graves below;
And now again she look'd around,
A voice came murm'ring sad and slow;
And now she heard it feebly cry,
"Lady! all that live must die!"

"Watch no more from yonder tow'r,
Watch no more the star of day!
Watch no more the dawning hour,
That chases sullen night away!
Cease to watch, and cease to mourn,
Thy Lover will no more return!"

She look'd around, and now she view'd,
Clad in a doublet gold and green,
A youthful knight: he frowning stood
And noble was his mournful mien;
And now he said, with heaving sigh,
"Lady, all that live must die!"

She rose to quit the altar's stone,
She cast a look to heaven and sigh'd,
When lo! the youthful knight was gone;
And, scowling by the Lady's side,
With sightless skull and bony hand,
She saw a giant spectre stand!

His flowing robe was long and clear,
His ribs were white as drifted snow:
The Lady's heart was chill'd with fear;
She rose, but scarce had power to go:
The spectre grinn'd a dreadful smile,
And walk'd beside her down the aisle.

And now he wav'd his rattling hand;
And now they reach'd the chapel door,
And there the spectre took his stand;
While, rising from the marble floor,
A hollow voice was heard to cry,
"Lady, all that live must die!"

"Watch no more the evening star!
Watch no more the glimpse of morn!
Never from the Holy War,
Lady, will thy Love return!
See this bloody cross; and see
His bloody scarf he sends to thee!"

And now again the youthful knight
Stood smiling by the Lady's side;
His helmet shone with crimson light,
His sword with drops of blood was dy'd:
And now a soft and mournful song
Stole the chapel aisles among.

Now from the spectre's paley cheek
The flesh began to waste away;
The vaulted doors were heard to creek,
And dark became the Summer day!
The spectre's eyes were sunk, but he
Seem'd with their sockets still to see!

The second bell is heard to ring:
Four barefoot monks, of orders grey,
Again their holy service sing;
And round the chapel altar pray:
The Lady counted o'er and o'er,
And shudder'd while she counted—four!

"Oh! Fathers, who was he, so gay,
That stood beside the chapel door?
Oh! tell me fathers, tell me pray."
The monks replied, "We fathers four,
Lady no other have we seen,
Since in this holy place we've been!"

Part Second

Now the merry bugle horn
Thro' the forest sounded far;
When on the lofty tow'r, forlorn,
The Lady watch'd the evening star;
The evening star that seem'd to be
Rising from the dark'ned sea!

The Summer sea was dark and still,
The sky was streak'd with lines of gold,
The mist rose grey above the hill,
And low the clouds of amber roll'd:
The Lady on the lofty tow'r
Watch'd the calm and silent hour.

And, while she watch'd, she saw advance
A ship, with painted streamers gay:
She saw it on the green wave dance,
And plunge amid the silver spray;
While from the forest's haunts, forlorn,
Again she heard the bugle horn.

The sails were full; the breezes rose;
The billows curl'd along the shore;
And now the day began to close;—
The bugle horn was heard no more,
But, rising from the wat'ry way,
An airy voice was heard to say:

"Watch no more the evening star;
Watch no more the billowy sea;
Lady, from the Holy War
Thy lover hastes to comfort thee:
Lady, Lady, cease to mourn;
Soon thy lover will return."

Now she hastens to the bay;
Now the rising storm she hears;
Now the sailors smiling say,
"Lady, Lady, check your fears:
Trust us, Lady; we will be
Your pilots o'er the stormy sea."

Now the little bark she view'd,
Moor'd beside the flinty steep;
And now, upon the foamy flood,
The tranquil breezes seem'd to sleep.
The moon arose; her silver ray
Seem'd on the silent deep to play.

Now music stole across the main:
It was a sweet but mournful tone;
It came a slow and dulcet strain;
It came from where the pale moon shone:
And, while it pass'd across the sea,
More soft, and soft, it seem'd to be.

Now on the deck the Lady stands;
The vessel steers across the main;
It steers towards the Holy Land,
Never to return again:
Still the sailors cry, "We'll be
Your pilots o'er the stormy sea."

Now she hears a low voice say,
"Deeper, deeper, deeper still;
Hark! the black'ning billows play;
Hark! the waves the vessel fill:
Lower, lower, down we go;
All is dark and still below."

Now a flash of vivid light
On the rolling deep was seen!
And now the Lady saw the Knight,
With doublet rich of gold and green:
From the sockets of his eyes,
A pale and streaming light she spies!

And now his form transparent stood,
Smiling with a ghastly mien;—
And now the calm and boundless flood
Was, like the emerald, bright and green;
And now 'twas of a troubled hue,
While, "Deeper, deeper," sang the crew.

Slow advanced the morning-light,
Slow they plough'd the wavy tide;
When, on a cliff of dreadful height,
A castle's lofty tow'rs they spied:
The Lady heard the sailor-band
Cry, "Lady, this is Holy Land."

"Watch no more the glitt'ring spray;
Watch no more the weedy sand;
Watch no more the star of day;
Lady, this is Holy Land:
This castle's lord shall welcome thee;
Then Lady, Lady, cheerful be!"

Now the castle-gates they pass;
Now across the spacious square,
Cover'd high with dewy grass,
Trembling steals the Lady fair:
And now the castle's lord was seen,
Clad in a doublet gold and green.

He led her thro' the gothic hall,
With bones and skulls encircled round;
"Oh, let not this thy soul appal!"
He cried, "for this is Holy Ground."
He led her thro' the chambers lone,
'Mid many a shriek and many a groan.

Now to the banquet-room they came:
Around a table of black stone
She mark'd a faint and vapoury flame;
Upon the horrid feast it shone—
And there, to close the madd'ning sight,
Unnumber'd spectres met the light.

Their teeth were like the brilliant, bright;
Their eyes were blue as sapphire clear;
Their bones were of a polish'd white;
Gigantic did their ribs appear!—
And now the Knight the Lady led,
And plac'd her at the table's head!—

Just now the Lady WOKE:—for she
Had slept upon the lofty tow'r,
And dreams of dreadful phantasie
Had fill'd the lonely moon-light hour:
Her pillow was the turret-stone,
And on her breast the pale moon shone.

But now a real voice she hears:
It was her lover's voice;—for he,
To calm her bosom's rending fears,
That night had cross'd the stormy sea:
"I come," said he, "from Palestine,
To prove myself, sweet Lady, THINE."





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