"There dwelt a nun in Dryburgh bower
Who ne'er beheld the day."
Twilight o'er the East is stealing,
And the sun is in the vale:
'T is a fitting moment, stranger,
To relate a wondrous tale.
'Neath this moss-grown rock and hoary
We will pause awhile to rest;
See, the drowsy surf no longer
Beats against its aged breast.
Years ago, traditions tell us,
When rebellion stirred the land,
And the fiery cross was carried
O'er the hills from band to band,--
And the yeoman at its summons
Left his yet unfurrowed field,
And the leader from his fortress
Sallied forth with sword and shield,--
Where the iron cross is standing
On yon rude and crumbling wall,
Dwelt a chieftain's orphan daughter,
In her broad ancestral hall.
And her faith to one was plighted,
Lord of fief and domain wide,
Who, ere he went forth undaunted
War's disastrous strife to bide,
'Mid his armed and mounted vassals
Paused before her castle gate,
While she waved a last adieu
From the battlements in state.
But when nodding plume and banner
Faded from her straining sight,
And the mists from o'er the mountains
Crept like phantoms with the night,--
Low before the sacred altar
At the crucifix she bowed,
And, with fervent supplication
To the Holy Mother, vowed
That, till he returned from battle,
Scotland's hills and passes o'er,
Saved by her divine protection,
She would see the sun no more!
In a low and vaulted chapel,
Where no sunbeam entrance found,
Many a day was passed in penance,
Kneeling on the cold, damp ground.
Autumn blanched the flowers of Summer,
And the forest robes grew sere;
Still in darkness knelt the maiden,
Pleading, "Mary! Mother! hear!"
Cold blasts through the valleys hurried,
Dry leaves fluttered on the gale;
But of him, the loved and absent,
Leaf and tempest told no tale.
Still and pale, a dreamless slumber
Slept he on the battle-plain,--
Steed beneath and vassal o'er him,--
Lost amid the hosts of slain.
Spring, with tranquil breath and fragrant,
Called the primrose from its grave,
Woke the low peal of the harebell,
Bade the purple heather wave;--
Lilies to the warm light opened,
Surges, sparkling, kissed the shore;
But the chieftain's orphan daughter
Saw the sunbeam--never more!
Suitors sent, her hand to purchase,
Some with wealth and some with fame;
But the vow was on her spirit,
And she shrank not from its claim.
Yet when starry worlds looked downwards,
Spirit-like, from realms on high,
And the violets in the valleys
Closed in sleep each dewy eye,--
While the night in wondrous beauty
O'er the softened landscape lay,
She came forth, with noiseless footstep
Moving 'mid the shadows gray,
Gazing ever towards the summit,
Where the gleam of scarf and plume
Faded in the hazy distance,
Leaving her to prayer and gloom.
Years, by her unmarked, unnumbered,
Crossed the dial-plate of Time;
Then she passed, one quiet midnight,
To the unseen Spirit-Clime.
But the twilight has departed,
And the moon is up on high;
Stranger, pass not, in thy journey,
Yon deserted court-yard by;
For it is whispered that, at evening,
Oft a misty form is seen,
In its silent progress casting
Not a shadow on the green,
'Neath the iron cross that standeth
On the mouldering wall and rude,
Like a noble thought uplifted
In the Past's deep solitude.