High on the hill, with moss o'ergrown,
A hermit chapel stood;
It spoke the tale of seasons gone,
And half-revealed its ivied stone.
Amid the beechen wood.
Here often, when the mountain trees
A leafy murmur made,
Now still, now swaying to the breeze,
(Sounds that the musing fancy please),
The widowed mourner strayed.
And many a morn she climbed the steep,
From whence she might behold,
Where, 'neath the clouds, in shining sweep,
And mingling with the mighty deep,
The sea-broad Severn rolled.
Her little boy beside her played,
With sea-shells in his hand;
And sometimes, 'mid the bents delayed,
And sometimes running onward, said,
Oh, where is Holy Land!
My child, she cried, my prattler dear!
And kissed his light-brown hair;
Her eyelid glistened with a tear,
And none but God above could hear,
That hour, her secret prayer.
As thus she nursed her secret woes,
Oft to the wind and rain
She listened, at sad autumn's close,
Whilst many a thronging shadow rose,
Dark-glancing o'er her brain.
Now lonely to the cloudy height
Of the steep hill she strays;
Below, the raven wings his flight,
And often on the screaming kite
She sees the wild deer gaze.
The clouds were gathered on its brow,
The warring winds were high;
She heard a hollow voice, and now
She lifts to heaven a secret vow,
Whilst the king of the storm rides by.
Seated on a craggy rock,
What aged man appears!
There is no hind, no straggling flock;
Comes the strange shade my thoughts to mock,
And shake my soul with fears?
Fast drive the hurrying clouds of morn;
A pale man stands confessed;
With look majestic, though forlorn,
A mirror in his hand, and horn
Of ivory on his breast.
Daughter of grief, he gently said,
And beckoned her: come near;
Now say, what would you give to me,
If you brave Hoel's form might see,
Or the sound of his bugle hear!
Hoel, my love, where'er thou art,
All England I would give,
If, never, never more to part,
I now could hold thee to my heart,
For whom alone I live!
He placed the white horn to her ear,
And sudden a sweet voice
Stole gently, as of fairies near,
While accents soft she seemed to hear,
Daughter of grief, rejoice!
For soon to love and thee I fly,
From Salem's hallowed plain!
The mirror caught her turning eye,
As pale in death she saw him lie,
And sinking 'mid the slain.
She turned to the strange phantom-man,
But she only saw the sky,
And the clouds on the lonely mountains' van,
And the Clydden-Shoots, that rushing ran,
To meet the waves of Wye.
Thus seven long years had passed away,
She heard no voice of mirth;
No minstrel raised his festive lay,
At the sad close of the drisly day,
Beside the blazing hearth.
She seemed in sorrow, yet serene,
No tear was on her face;
And lighting oft her pensive mien,
Upon her languid look was seen
A meek attractive grace.
In beauty's train she yet might vie,
For though in mourning weeds,
No friar, I deem, that passed her by,
Ere saw her dark, yet gentle eye,
But straight forgot his beads.
Eineon, generous and good,
Alone with friendship's aid,
Eineon, of princely Rhys's blood,
Who 'mid the bravest archers stood,
To sooth her griefs essayed.
He had himself been early tried
By stern misfortune's doom;
For she who loved him drooped and died,
And on the green hill's flowery side
He raised her grassy tomb.
What marvel, in his lonely heart,
To faith a friendship true,
If, when her griefs she did impart,
And tears of memory oft would start,
If more than pity grew.
With converse mild he oft would seek
To sooth her sense of care;
As the west wind, with breathings weak,
Wakes, on the hectic's faded cheek
A smile of faint despair.
The summer's eve was calm and still,
When once his harp he strung;
Soft as the twilight on the hill,
Affection seemed his heart to fill,
Whilst eloquent he sung:
When Fortune to all thy warm hopes was unkind,
And the morn of thy youth was o'erclouded with woe,
In me, not a stranger to grief, thou should'st find,
All that friendship and kindness and truth could bestow.
Yes, the time it has been, when my soul was oppressed,
But no longer this heart would for heaviness pine,
Could I lighten the load of an innocent breast,
And steal but a moment of sadness from thine.
He paused, then with a starting tear,
And trembling accent, cried,
O lady, hide that look severe,
The voice of love, of friendship hear,
And be again a bride.
Mourn not thy much-loved Hoel lost,
Lady, he is dead, is dead,
Far distant wanders his pale ghost,
His bones by the white surge are tossed,
And the wave rolls o'er his head.
She said, Sev'n years their course have rolled,
Since thus brave Hoel spake,
When last I heard his voice, Behold,
This ring, it is of purest gold,
Then, keep it for my sake.
When summers seven have robed each tree,
And decked the coombs with green,
If I come not back, then thou art free,
To wed or not, and to think of me
As I had never been.
Those seven sad summers now are o'er,
And three I yet demand;
If in that space I see no more
The friend I ever must deplore,
Then take a mourner's hand.
The time is passed: the laugh, the lay,
The nuptial feast proclaim;
From many a rushing torrent gray,
From many a wild brook's wandering way,
The hoary minstrels came.
From Kymin's crag, with fragments strewed;
From Skirid, bleak and high;
From Penalt's shaggy solitude;
From Wyndcliff, desolate and rude,
That frowns o'er mazy Wye.
With harps the gallery glittered bright,
The pealing rafters rung;
Far off upon the woods of night,
From the tall window's arch, the light
Of tapers clear was flung.
The harpers ceased the acclaiming lay,
When, with descending beard,
Scallop, and staff his steps to stay,
As, foot-sore, on his weary way,
A pilgrim wan appeared.
Now lend me a harp for St Mary's sake,
For my skill I fain would try,
A poor man's offering to make,
If haply still my hand may wake
Some pleasant melody.
With scoffs the minstrel crowd replied,
Dost thou a harp request!
And loud in mirth, and swelled with pride,
Some his rain-dripping hair deride,
And some his sordid vest.
Pilgrim, a harp shall soon be found,
Young Hoel instant cried;
There lies a harp upon the ground,
And none hath ever heard its sound,
Since my brave father died.
The harp is brought: upon the frame
A filmy cobweb hung;
The strings were few, yet 'twas the same;
The old man drawing near the flame,
The chords imperfect rung:
Oh! cast every care to the wind,
And dry, best beloved, the tear;
Secure that thou ever shalt find
The friend of thy bosom sincere.
She speechless gazed: he stands confessed,
The dark eyes of her Hoel shine;
Her heart has forgotten it e'er was oppressed,
And she murmurs aloud, as she sinks on his breast,
Oh! press my heart to thine.
He turned his look a little space,
To hide the tears of joy;
Then rushing, with a warm embrace,
Cried, as he kissed young Hoel's face,
My boy, my heart-loved boy!
Proud harpers, strike a louder lay,
No more forlorn I bend!
Prince Eineon, with the rest, be gay,
Though fate hath torn a bride away,
Accept a long-lost friend.
* * * * *
This tale I heard, when at the close of day
The village harper tuned an ancient lay;
He struck his harp, beneath a ruin hoar,
And sung of love and truth, in days of yore,
And I retained the song, with counsel sage,
To teach one lesson to a wiser age!