Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, DONICA, by ROBERT SOUTHEY



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DONICA, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: High on a rock, whose castled shade
Last Line: The livid corpse fell dead.
Subject(s): Arlinkow, Finland; Russia; Soviet Union; Russians


HIGH on a rock, whose castled shade
Darkened the lake below,
In ancient strength majestic stood
The towers of Arlinkow.

The fisher in the lake below
Durst never cast his net,
Nor ever swallow in its waves
Her passing wing would wet.

The cattle from its ominous banks
In wild alarm would run,
Though parcned with thirst, and faint beneath
The summer's scorching sun.

For sometimes, when no passing breeze
The long, lank sedges waved,
All white with foam, and heaving high,
Its deafening billows raved: --

And, when the tempest from its base
The rooted pine would shake,
The powerless storm unruffling swept
Across the calm dead lake.

And ever, then, when death drew near
The house of Arlinkow,
Its dark, unfathomed waters sent
Strange music from below,

The Lord of Arlinkow was old;
One only child had he:
Donica was the maiden's name,
As fair as fair might be.

A bloom as bright as opening morn
Suffused her clear, white cheek;
The music of her voice was mild;
Her full, dark eyes were meek.

Far was her beauty known; for none
So fair could Finland boast:
Her parents loved the maiden much, --
Young Eberhard loved her most.

Together did they hope to tread
The pleasant path of life;
For now the day drew near to make
Donica Eberhard's wife.

The eve was fair, and mild the air;
Along the lake they stray:
The eastern hill reflected bright
The tints of fading day;

And brightly o'er the water streamed
The liquid radiance wide:
Donica's little dog ran on,
And gambolled at her side.

Youth, health, and love bloomed on her cheek:
Her full, dark eyes express,
In many a glance, to Eberhard
Her soul's meek tenderness.

Nor sound was heard, nor passing gale
Sighed through the long, lank sedge;
The air was hushed; no little wave
Dimpled the water's edge; --

When suddenly the lake sent forth
Its music from beneath,
And slowly o'er the waters sailed
The solemn sounds of death.

As those deep sounds of death arose,
Donica's cheek grew pale,
And in the arms of Eberhard
The lifeless maiden fell.

Loudly the youth in terror shrieked,
And loud he called for aid,
And with a wild and eager look
Gazed on the lifeless maid.

But soon again did better thoughts
In Eberhard arise;
And he with trembling hope beheld
The maiden raise her eyes.

And, on his arm reclined, she moved
With feeble pace and slow,
And soon, with strength recovered, reached
The towers of Arlinkow.

Yet never to Donica's cheeks
Returned their lively hue:
Her cheeks were deathy white and wan;
Her lips, a livid blue.

Her eyes, so bright and black of yore,
Were now more black and bright,
And beamed strange lustre in her face,
So deadly wan and white.

The dog that gambolled by her side,
And loved with her to stray,
Now at his altered mistress howled,
And fled in fear away.

Yet did the faithful Eberhard
Not love the maid the less:
He gazed with sorrow, but he gazed
With deeper tenderness.

And, when he found her health unharmed,
He would not brook delay,
But pressed the not unwilling maid
To fix the bridal day.

And, when at length it came, with joy
He hailed the bridal day.
And onward to the house of God
They went their willing way.

But when they at the altar stood,
And heard the sacred rite,
The hallowed tapers dimly streamed
A pale, sulphureous light.

And when the youth, with holy warmth,
Her hand in his did hold,
Sudden he felt Donica's hand
Grow deadly damp and cold.

But loudly then he shrieked; for, lo!
A spirit met his view;
And Eberhard in the angel form
His own Donica knew.

That instant from her earthly frame
A demon howling fled,
And at the side of Eberhard
The livid corpse fell dead.





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