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



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RUDIGER, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Bright on the mountain's heathy slope
Last Line: Adown the dark profound.
Subject(s): Birds; Boats; Curses; Love - Loss Of; Marriage; Soldiers; Swans; Weddings; Husbands; Wives


BRIGHT on the mountain's heathy slope
The day's last splendours shine,
And rich with many a radiant hue,
Gleam gaily on the Rhine.

And many a one from Waldhurst's walls
Along the river strolled,
As ruffling o'er the pleasant stream
The evening gales came cold.

So as they strayed, a swan they saw
Sail stately up and strong,
And by a silver chain she drew
A little boat along;

Whose streamer to the gentle breeze
Long floating fluttered light,
Beneath whose crimson canopy
There lay reclined a knight.

With arching crest and swelling breast
On sailed the stately swan,
And lightly up the parting tide
The little boat came on.

And onward to the shore they drew,
And leapt to land the knight,
And down the stream the little boat
Fell soon beyond the sight.

Was never a knight in Waldhurst's walls
Could with this stranger vie,
Was never youth at aught esteemed
When Rudiger was by.

Was never a maid in Waldhurst's walls
Might match with Margaret,
Her cheek was fair, her eyes were dark,
Her silken locks like jet.

And many a rich and noble youth
Had strove to win the fair;
But never a rich and noble youth
Could rival Rudiger.

At every tilt and tourney he
Still bore away the prize,
For knightly feats superior still,
And knightly courtesies.

His gallant feats, his looks, his love,
Soon won the willing fair;
And soon did Margaret become
The wife of Rudiger.

Like morning dreams of happiness
Fast rolled the months away;
For he was kind, and she was kind,
And who so blest as they?

Yet Rudiger would sometimes sit
Absorbed in silent thought,
And his dark downward eye would seem
With anxious meaning fraught.

But soon he raised his looks again
And smiled his cares away;
And, mid the hall of gaiety
Was none like him so gay.

And onward rolled the waning months,
The hour appointed came,
And Margaret her Rudiger
Hailed with a father's name.

But silently did Rudiger
The little infant see;
And darkly on the babe he gazed,—
A gloomy man was he.

And when to bless the little babe
The holy father came,
To cleanse the stains of sin away
In Christ's redeeming name,

Then did the cheek of Rudiger
Assume a death-pale hue,
And on his clammy forehead stood
The cold convulsive dew;

And faltering in his speech, he bade
The priest the rites delay,
Till he could, to right health restored,
Enjoy the festive day.

When o'er the many-tinted sky
He saw the day decline,
He called upon his Margaret
To walk beside the Rhine.—

"And we will take the little babe,
For soft the breeze that blows,
And the mild murmurs of the stream
Will lull him to repose."

And so together forth they went,
The evening breeze was mild,
And Rudiger upon his arm
Pillowed the little child.

And many a one from Waldhurst's walls
Along the banks did roam;
But soon the evening wind came cold,
And all betook them home.

Yet Rudiger, in silent mood
Along the banks would roam,
Nor aught could Margaret prevail
To turn his footsteps home.

"Oh turn thee, turn thee, Rudiger,
The rising mists behold,
The evening wind is damp and chill,
The little babe is cold!"

"Now hush thee, hush thee, Margaret,
The mists will do no harm,
And from the wind the little babe
Lies sheltered on my arm."

"Oh, turn thee, turn thee, Rudiger,
Why onward wilt thou roam?
The moon is up, the night is cold,
And we are far from home."

He answered not; for now he saw
A swan come sailing strong,
And by a silver chain she drew
A little boat along.

To shore they came, and to the boat
Fast leapt he with the child,
And in leapt Margaret—breathless now,
And pale with fear, and wild.

With arching crest and swelling breast
On sailed the stately swan,
And lightly down the rapid tide
The little boat went on.

The full orb'd-moon, that beamed around
Pale splendour through the night,
Cast through the crimson canopy
A dim, discoloured light.

And swiftly down the hurrying stream
In silence still they sail,
And the long streamer fluttering fast,
Flapped to the heavy gale,—

And he was mute in sullen thought,
And she was mute with fear,
Nor sound but of the parting tide
Broke on the listening ear.

The little babe began to cry,
Then Margaret raised her head,
And with a quick and hollow voice,
"Give me the child," she said.

"Now hush thee, hush thee, Margaret,
Nor my poor heart distress—
I do but pay perforce the price
Of former happiness;

And hush thee, too, my little babe!
Thy cries so feeble cease!
Lie still, lie still;—a little while
And thou shalt be at peace."

So as he spake to land they drew,
And swift he stept on shore,
And him behind did Margaret
Close follow evermore.

It was a place all desolate,
Nor house nor tree was there,
And there a rocky mountain rose,
Barren, and bleak, and bare.

And at its base a cavern yawned,
No eye its depth might view,
For in the moonbeam shining round
That darkness darker grew.

Cold horror crept through Margaret's blood,
Her heart it paused with fear,
When Rudiger approached the cave,
And cried, "Lo, I am here!"

A deep sepulchral sound the cave
Returned, "Lo, I am here!"
And black from out the cavern gloom
Two giant arms appear.

And Rudiger approached and held
The little infant nigh;
Then Margaret shrieked, and gathered then
New powers from agony.

And round the baby fast and close
Her trembling arms she folds,
And with a strong convulsive grasp
The little infant holds.

"Now help me, Jesus!" loud she cries,
And loud on God she calls;
Then from the grasp of Rudiger
The little infant falls.

And loud he shrieked, for now his frame
The huge black arms clasped round,
And dragged the wretched Rudiger
Adown the dark profound.





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