Annulus ille viri.
OVID. "Amor." lib. ii. eleg. 15.
The happy day at length arrived
When Rupert was to wed
The fairest maid in Saxony,
And take her to his bed.
As soon as morn was in the sky,
The feast and sports began;
The men admired the happy maid,
The maids the happy man.
In many a sweet device of mirth
The day was past along;
And some the featly dance amused,
And some the dulcet song.
The younger maids with Isabel
Disported through the bowers,
And decked her robe, and crowned her head
With motley bridal flowers.
The matrons all in rich attire,
Within the castle walls,
Sat listening to the choral strains
That echoed, through the halls.
Young Rupert and his friends repaired
Unto a spacious court,
To strike the bounding tennis-ball
In feat and manly sport.
The bridegroom on his finger wore
The wedding-ring so bright,
Which was to grace the lily hand
Of Isabel that night.
And fearing he might break the gem,
Or lose it in the play,
Hie looked around the court, to see
Where he the ring might lay.
Now, in the court a statue stood,
Which there full long had been;
It might a Heathen goddess be,
Or else, a Heathen queen.
Upon its marble finger then
He tried the ring to fit;
And, thinking it was safest there,
Thereon he fastened it.
And now the tennis sports went on,
Till they were wearied all,
And messengers announced to them
Their dinner in the hall,
Young Rupert for his wedding-ring
Unto the statue went;
But, oh, how shocked was he to find
The marble finger bent!
The hand was closed upon the ring
With firm and mighty clasp;
In vain he tried and tried and tried,
He could not loose the grasp!
Then sore surprised was Rupert's mind--
As well his mind might be;
"I'll come," quoth he, "at night again,
"When none are here to see."
He went unto the feast, and much
He thought upon his ring;
And marvelled sorely what could mean
So very strange a thing!
The feast was o'er, and to the court
He hied without delay,
Resolved to break the marble hand
And force the ring away.
But, mark a stranger wonder still--
The ring was there no more
And yet the marble hand ungrasped,
And open as before!
He searched the base, and all the court,
But nothing could he find;
Then to the castle hied he back
With sore bewildered mind.
Within he found them all in mirth,
The night in dancing flew:
The youth another ring procured,
And none the adventure knew.
And now the priest has joined their hands,
The hours of love advance:
Rupert almost forgets to think
Upon the morn's mischance.
Within the bed fair Isabel
In blushing sweetness lay,
Like flowers, half-opened by the dawn,
And waiting for the day.
And Rupert, by her lovely side,
In youthful beauty glows,
Like Phoebus, when he bends to cast
His beams upon a rose.
And here my song would leave them both,
Nor let the rest be told,
If 'twere not for the horrid tale
It yet has to unfold.
Soon Rupert, 'twixt his bride and him
A death cold carcass found;
He saw it not, but thought he felt
Its arms embrace him round.
He started up, and then returned,
But found the phantom still;
In vain he shrunk, it clipt him round,
With damp and deadly chill!
And when he bent, the earthy lips
A kiss of horror gave;
'Twas like the smell from charnel vaults,
Or from the mouldering grave!
Ill-fated Rupert!--wild and loud
Then cried he to his wife,
"Oh! save me from this horrid fiend,
"My Isabel! my life!"
But Isabel had nothing seen,
She looked around in vain;
And much she mourned the mad conceit
That racked her Rupert's brain.
At length from this invisible
These words to Rupert came:
(Oh God! while he did hear the words
What terrors shook his frame!)
"Husband, husband, I've the ring
"Thou gavest to-day to me;
"And thou'rt to me for ever wed,
"As I am wed to thee!"
And all the night the demon lay
Cold-chilling by his side,
And strained him with such deadly grasp,
He thought he should have died.
But when the dawn of day was near,
The horrid phantom fled,
And left the affrighted youth to weep
By Isabel in bed.
And all that day a gloomy cloud
Was seen on Rupert's brows;
Fair Isabel was likewise sad,
But strove to cheer her spouse.
And, as the day advanced, he thought
Of coming night with fear:
Alas, that he should dread to view
The bed that should be dear!
At length the second night arrived,
Again their couch they prest;
Poor Rupert hoped that all was o'er,
And looked for love and rest.
But oh! when midnight came, again
The fiend was at his side,
And, as it strained him in its grasp,
With howl exulting cried:--
"Husband, husband, I've the ring,
"The ring thou gavest to me;
"And thou'rt to me for ever wed,
"As I am wed to thee!",
In agony of wild despair,
He started from the bed;
And thus to his bewildered wife
The trembling Rupert said;
"Oh Isabel! dost thou not see
"A shape of horrors here,
"That strains me to its deadly kiss,
"And keeps me from my dear?"
"No, no, my love! my Rupert, I
"No shape of horrors see;
"And much I mourn the fantasy
"That keeps my dear from me."
This night, just like the night before,
In terrors past away.
Nor did the demon vanish thence
Before the dawn of day.
Said Rupert then, "My Isabel,
"Dear partner of my woe.
"To Father Austin's holy cave
"This instant will I go."
Now Austin was a reverend man,
Who acted wonders maint--
Whom all the country round believed
A devil or a saint!
To Father Austin's holy cave
Then Rupert straightway went;
And told him all, and asked him how
These horrors to prevent.
The father heard the youth, and then
Retired awhile to pray:
And, having prayed for half an hour
Thus to the youth did say:
"There is a place where four roads meet,
"Which I will tell to thee;
"Be there this eve, at fall of night,
"And list what thou shalt see.
"Thou'lt see a group of figures pass
"In strange disordered crowd,
"Travelling by torchlight through the roads,
"With noises strange and loud.
"And one that's high above the rest,
"Terrific towering o'er,
"Will make thee know him at a glance,
"So I need say no more.
"To him from me these tablets give,
"They'll quick be understood;
"Thou need'st not fear, but give them straight,
"I've scrawled them with my blood!"
The night-fall came, and Rupert all
In pale amazement went
To where the cross-roads met, as he
Was by the Father sent.
And lo! a group of figures came
In strange disordered crowd.
Travelling by torchlight through the roads,
With noises strange and loud.
And, as the gloomy train advanced,
Rupert beheld from far
A female form of wanton mien
High seated on a car.
And Rupert, as he gazed upon
The loosely-vested dame,
Thought of the marble statue's look,
For hers was just the same.
Behind her walked a hideous form,
With eyeballs flashing death;
Whene'er he breathed, a sulphured smoke
Came burning in his breath.
He seemed the first of all the crowd,
Terrific towering o'er;
"Yes, yes," said Rupert, "this is he,
"And I need ask no more."
Then slow he went, and to this fiend
The tablets trembling gave,
Who looked and read them with a yell
That would disturb the grave.
And when he saw the blood-scrawled name,
His eyes with fury shine;
"I thought," cries he, "his time was out,
"But he must soon be mine!"
Then darting at the youth a look
Which rent his soul with fear,
He went unto the female fiend,
And whispered in her ear.
The female fiend no sooner heard
Than, with reluctant look,
The very ring that Rupert lost,
She from her finger took.
And, giving it unto the youth,
With eyes that breathed of hell,
She said, in that tremendous voice,
Which he remembered well:
"In Austin's name take back the ring,
"The ring thou gavest to me;
"And thou'rt to me no longer wed,
"Nor longer I to thee."
He took the ring, the rabble past.
He home returned again;
His wife was then the happiest fair,
The happiest he of men.