Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, MARY, THE MAID OF THE INN, by ROBERT SOUTHEY

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

MARY, THE MAID OF THE INN, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Who is yonder poor maniac, whose wildly fixed eyes
Last Line: Of poor mary the maid of the inn.
Subject(s): Death; Grief; Hotels; Love - Loss Of; Man-woman Relationships; Dead, The; Sorrow; Sadness; Inns; Innskeepers; Motels; Boarding Houses; Male-female Relations


WHO is yonder poor maniac, whose wildly-fix'd eyes
Seem a heart overcharged to express?
She weeps not, yet often and deeply she sighs:
She never complains—but her silence implies
The composure of settled distress.


No aid, no compassion the maniac will seek;
Cold and hunger awake not her care;
Through her rags do the winds of the winter blow bleak
On her poor wither'd bosom half bare, and her cheek
Has the deathy pale hue of despair.


Yet cheerful and happy, nor distant the day,
Poor Mary the maniac has been.
The traveller remembers who journeyed this way
No damsel so lovely, no damsel so gay,
As Mary the maid of the inn.


Her cheerful address filled her guests with delight
As she welcomed them in with a smile;
Her heart was a stranger to childish affright,
And Mary would walk by the abbey at night
When the wind whistled down the dark aisle.


She loved; and young Richard had settled the day,
And she hoped to be happy for life:
But Richard was idle and worthless, and they
Who knew him would pity poor Mary, and say
That she was too good for his wife.


'Twas in autumn, and stormy and dark was the night,
And fast were the windows and door;
Two guests sat enjoying the fire that burnt bright,
And smoking in silence with tranquil delight
They listened to hear the wind roar.


"'Tis pleasant," cried one, "seated by the fire-side,
To hear the wind whistle without."
"A fine night for the abbey!" his comrade replied;
"Methinks a man's courage would now be well tried
Who should wander the ruins about.


"I myself, like a school-boy, should tremble to hear
The hoarse ivy shake over my head;
And could fancy I saw, half persuaded by fear,
Some ugly old abbot's white spirit appear,—
For this wind might awaken the dead!"

"I'll wager a dinner," the other one cried,
"That Mary would venture there now."
"Then wager and lose!" with a sneer he replied;
"I'll warrant she'd fancy a ghost by her side,
And faint if she saw a white cow."

"Will Mary this charge on her courage allow?"
His companion exclaimed with a smile;
"I shall win,—for I know she will venture there now,
And earn a new bonnet by bringing a bough
From the elder that-grows in the aisle."


With fearless good humour did Mary comply,
And her way to the abbey she bent;
The night it was dark, and the wind it was high,
And as hollowly howling it swept through the sky
She shivered with cold as she went.


O'er the path so well known still proceeded the maid
Where the abbey rose dim on the sight;
Through the gateway she entered, she felt not afraid;
Yet the ruins were lonely and wild, and their shade
Seemed to deepen the gloom of the night.


All around her was silent, save when the rude blast
Howled dismally round the old pile;
Over weed-covered fragments still fearless she past,
And arrived at the innermost ruin at last,
Where the elder-tree grew in the aisle.


Well-pleased did she reach it, and quickly drew near
And hastily gathered the bough;
When the sound of a voice seemed to rise on her ear:
She paused, and she listened, all eager to hear,
And her heart panted fearfully now.


The wind blew, the hoarse ivy shook over her head,
She listened,—nought else could she hear,
The wind ceased; her heart sunk in her bosom with dread,
For she heard in the ruins distinctly the tread
Of footsteps approaching her near.


Behind a wide column, half breathless with fear,
She crept to conceal herself there:
That instant the moon o'er a dark cloud shone clear,
And she saw in the moonlight two ruffians appear,
And between them a corpse did they bear.


Then Mary could feel her heart-blood curdle cold!
Again the rough wind hurried by,—
It blew off the hat of the one, and behold,
Even close to the feet of poor Mary it rolled—
She felt, and expected to die.


"Curse the hat!" he exclaims; "nay, come on here, and hide
The dead body," his comrade replies.
She beholds them in safety pass on by her side—
She seizes the hat, fear her courage supplied,
And fast through the abbey she flies.


She ran with wild speed, she rushed in at the door,
She gazed horribly eager around,
Then her limbs could support their faint burthen no more,
And exhausted and breathless she sunk on the floor,
Unable to utter a sound.


Ere yet her pale lips could the story impart,
For a moment the hat met her view;—
Her eyes from that object convulsively start,
For—O God! what cold horror then thrilled through her heart
When the name of her Richard she knew!


Where the old abbey stands on the common hard by,
His gibbet is now to be seen;
His irons you still from the road may espy,
The traveller beholds them, and thinks with a sigh,
Of poor Mary the maid of the inn.

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