[Home] [Book] [Expand] [Collapse] [Help]

Clear Search Expand Search

    BALLADS AND OTHER POEMS   Table of Contents     Musidora's Vision

Ray, H. Cordelia

- Rhyme of the Antique Forest

Rhyme of the Antique Forest

In the antique forest dreary,
Where the thrushes never weary,
Sang when Dawn with touch uncertain
Streaked with gold night's sable curtain,
Sang until the owlet muttered
At the faintest notes they uttered,
In the antique forest lonely,
Dwelt a pensive maiden only.

Was she maid, or sprite, or fairy,
Nature fashioned her so airy?
Wide her tresses, amber-tined
As if sunbeams through them glinted.
Reveries were calmly brooding
In her eyes and not intruding,
And her smile for every sweetness
Seemed to supplement completeness.

Had enchantment's wand waved o'er her
That the world lay strange before her?
Larks that cleave the ether singing,
Bore with song her musings winging
Toward the far unknown: would never
Stately knight or a warrior sever
Chains that bound one pure as sunrise,
Exquisite as perfect moonrise?

Rills within the forest glimmered,
Golden-green the leafage shimmered;
Grottoes dim with mossy ceiling,
Seemed some Dryad-haunt revealing.

Mid the tangled fretwork drifted
Hints of azure, zephyrs lifted
Fragrance from the strange wood flowers,
Dreaming in their sylvan bowers.

Lilies fair as snowflakes falling,
Roses Eastern climes recalling,
Buds whose liquid fire seemed vying
With the sun when day's a-dying
Blossoms diamond-tipped and creamy
In their heart's depth, all swung dreamy,
'Mid the forest trees emplanted
Where the light throught mazes slanted.

Lofty, foliage-empowered,
Stood the castle; fountains showered
High in air their glist'ning brightness,
Where the deer for every lightness
Leaped with noiseless footstep, staying
Oft to list to echoes straying
Through the court, as void of dwelling
Stray weird spirits sorrow telling.

Years agone these courts resounded
With the voice of eagle, hearts bounded
To the tones of love, eyes brightened
Under music's spell, mirth lightened
Ev'ry wasting care; yet sorrow
Lurks behind each joy, to-morrow
Oft belies to-day, and gladness
Seems projected into sadness.

One fair eve the Countess Una
Gazing on the sky where Luna
Dipped her silver horns, saw stealing
Through the woods a form revealing
Myst'ry in its pace; ay, nearer
Came a page and beckoned; clearer
Grew the light, and something told her
He had brought grief to enfold her.

At his words she tottered shrieking;
And full soon home bore they reeking
In his heart's blood, one who never
Quailed in battle now forever
Hushed in death. Sir Hubert, bravest
Of his kinsmen, yet the gravest,
Save with his bride-wife, when tender
Were the acts his love did render.

Soon there came despair to banish
A sweet babe, and grief did vanish
'Neath the mother-love enkindled
E'en to rapture; sorrow dwindled
To a holy mem'ry. Fairer
Grew the child and ever rarer
Her angelic smile, beseeching
Cherub mates beyond her reaching.

Yet while still her footsteps tender
Tottered round the hearth, to render
Joy unto the mother, slowly
Neared Death's angel and a holy
Peace came with the parting blessing
Una gave her babe; refreshing
Were the promises from Heaven
That to those who seek are given.

Sweeter grew the child, yet sadness
Seemed her comrade more than gladness
Called Bianca, all the fairness
Of the name betokened rareness
Of her spirit's chasteness, dovelike
Was her aspect and most lovelike
All her speech to those around her,
While a something weird enwound her.

In the shad'wy halls the maiden
Wandered lonely, ever laden
With her fresh soul's mystic dreaming.
Lore the still stars in their gleaming,
Taught her, and the rushing river,
Violets young and dew, the quiver
Of the wind-harps 'mid the branches,
And the sunset's golden lances.

And a gentle monk came teaching
Wisdom found in books, yet reaching
More the line of contemplation
Than aught active; meditation
On the sweep of moon-rays caught him
Fancy-bound, and! life had brought him
Inward visions; so his guiding
Made her dream-life more abiding.

As the years sped on, revealing
All her spirit's worth, came stealing
Something of that nameless longing
To a maiden's life belonging,
When the air seems palpitating
With Love's tender message; mating
Birds sing matins soft and tender;
All to Love the heart would render.

'Twas the magic sunset hour;
In the West a golden dower
Of rare filmy light was burning;
Radiant was the earth. Returning
From a ramble came the maiden
To her dream-nook. With sleep laden
Fell her drowsy lids, while thrushes
Sang amid the river rushes.

In the woods a knight was straying,
Lost in musing. Sunlight playing
O'er a mossy path invited
Him to linger. Birds alighted
Near him with their choicest chanting;
Sunbeams, like lit pearls, were slanting
O'er the water's wavy billows,
While the breeze sang in the willows.

Then the knight approached the bower
Where the maiden, like a flower,
Lay a-dreaming; there he started
At the vision; ne'er faint-hearted
Was he, but the thought came leaping
As he gazed upon her sleeping,
Was she maid, or sprite, or fairy,
Nature fashioned her so airy?

Rose-encolored, oval-moulded
Was her profile; eyelids folded
O'er her eyes hid deepest meaning
From the knight above her leaning.
Then she raised them very slowly,
In their sapphire depths some holy
Thought slept; was she supplicating
Spirits for her mandate waiting?

Thus they met, the maid descending
From her dream-nook; and the blending
Of their thoughts became a prelude
To Love's symphony. Each fair mood
Of the one e'en was reflected
In the other, till perfected
Was their intercourse, revealing
Depths of rare and tender feeling.

And their days passed by in gladness
With no note of aught of sadness
In their life-song. So one morning
When the dainty hues of dawning
Streaked the skies, they went a-straying
Through the meadows, where were playing
Wind-lyres through the trees, and dancing
Sunbeams o'er the lake were glancing.

Came a stately lady riding
On a palfrey, near the gliding
Waters of the stream. She started
When the two she saw, departed
Swiftly with a brow of ire,
And to brave the raging fire
In her breast, the reins firm tight'ning,
Sent the maid a glance like lightning.

Then Bianca, pale and trembling,
Yet spoke joyous words, dissembling
Thus her fear; for on the morrow
Must the knight speed forth, and sorrow
At the parting made those hours
Sacred ones. Of choicest flowers
He a garland wove, the fairest
One to crown with buds the rarest.

Months had sped. Sir Guy was eager
To return, but battle's rigor
Held him, and the maid grown weary
At his absence, to the dreary
Forest went one breezy morning;
There, without a sign of warning,
Came the stately lady, sweeping
Wide her flowing skirts and leaping

To a height of wrath and madness,
When she saw the maid; the sadness
Of her aspect no compassion
Waking in one so by passion
Swayed. In harshest tones she uttered
Cruel words: "O be not fluttered,
Maiden. Is Sir Guy departed?
Go he must, the craven-hearted.

"I his wife am, lady fairest.
Though thy face be of the rarest,
Me he wedded, to me plighted
Perfect troth. Now wronged and slighted,
Come I all his sin revealing,
Sin that will not near concealing.
All the tender love he gave thee,
From his treach'ry cannot save thee."

'Neath the maiden's dreamy Iashes
Something gleamed like lightning flashes
In her sapphire eyes; then slowly
Lifting them, so pure and holy,
To the lady's gaze, all keenly
Piercing hers, she with a queenly
Mien arose, plaintively saying,
"Naught is left us twain but praying."

In her soul where sorrow mingling
With despair sent the blood tingling
Through her veins, arose a vision
Of the love that made Elysian
All the future; and the yearning
Of her heart, the sudden turning
Of life's roseate page, made sadness
Something e'en akin to madness.

Then the false one swifty glided
Through the woods. He she derided,
Dreamed not that the maid he cherished,
Felt 'twere best her love had perished
Ere it burst to sweetest blooming.
Now as day grew near to nooning,
In a boat to seek the friar
Went she, while the weird wind-lyre

Sent its plaint across the billow.
Bowed with sorrow as the willow
Bends in tempests, long she uttered
Wails of grief. Her gold hair fluttered
O'er the boat's edge. In the gloaming
Rose the convent, sea birds roaming
Flung their wild lament to greet her.
But the monk ne'er came to meet her.

For the boat was fiercely driven
On the rocks, its sides all river.
By the lashing. And the maiden
With a heart so sorrow-laden,
What of her? Weak, wan and bleeding,
On a crag she lay, sore needing
Much that loving hands can render,--
Ministrations sweet and tender.

Soon a fisherman espied her,
And he gently knelt beside her.
Lifting carefully his burden
With no thought of aught of guerdon,
To his hut he sped; the morrow
Saw her eased somewhat of sorrow.
Ay, her humble friends found gladness
In their task to soothe her sadness.

One rare day when all the thrushes
Sang, and 'mid the river rushes
Lilies raised their lovely faces,
While anon in shady places
Silence held her resign, the maiden
With her soul so sorrow-laden,
Sought a fav'rite leafy bower,
Jess'mine-twined, with many a flower

Decked, and when the sunbeams sprinkled
Sprays of dainty light, while wrinkled
Were the waves the winds were kissing,
Mute she sat there, love's tones missing;
While her heart was sorely yearning
For a lost joy and returning
To a past with rapture gleaming,
Sweet and fairer than all dreaming.

Wrapped in melancholy's mazes,
Who is it that long time gazes
At her winsome beauty, heeding
Naught save that rare face, and needing
But a glance to send him kneeling
At her feet, his love revealing?
Just a breath, and something told her
He was waiting to enfold her.

In his arms where all of sadness
Quickly died, a little gladness
Soothed her, and the list'ning lover
Heard the tale that sought to cover
All his life with shame. Then nearer
Drew he to him one the dearer
For her pain. Now all her longing
Found its balm in love's new dawning.

For he told her Blanche the scornful,
Was his cousin, and the mournful
Tale rehearsed of parents planning
Their betrothal, only fanning
Him to discontent and leaving
In her heart a scar; e'en weaving
Round her life a spell of madness,
While his pulses leaped to gladness

When he freedom found. The father
Seeing his distress, would rather
Break the bond, and so they parted,
He and Blanche the haughty-hearted.
Then Bianca at the story
Felt her soul grow calm. The glory
Of the magic sunset hour
Threw a halo o'er her bower.

Ring-doves cooed with matchless quiver,
In their love-notes; swift the river
Sped, its silv'ry cadence chanting,
While the liquid sunbeams slanting
Down the mountain's chiseled ridges,
Made the dells a flame, the edges
Of the lucent lake enkindled.
In this peace all sorrow dwindled

Into nothingness. Together
With the thought that naught could sever,
Now their lives united, gladly
Spoke the happy lovers; sadly
Had the past been spent, now sweetest
Music in their souls rang; fleetest
Were Time's footsteps and the hours
Idyls fair as fairest flowers.

Soon a boat the lovers entered;
Toward the castle where were centered
All their early joys, fast speeding
Went they, all the wrath unheeding
Of the low'ring sky, till pealing
Burst the thunder, and the reeling
Of their boat awoke a shiver
In their breasts as raged the river.

And the wind howled loud and scattered
Far the rigging, and the tattered
Masts hung round them. Then the maiden,
Erst so worn and sorrow-laden,
And rent with emotions, slowly
Drooped and in her soul a holy
Calmness followed Love's fruition.
So, in accents of submission.

Told she to Sir Guy that never
Could their lives be joined, yet ever
Would he know that earth's affection
Rarest grew in Heaven's perfection.
Then the lover, tossed with sorrow
At her words, seemed but to borrow
Strength to brave the tempest's power.
So e'en at the sunset hour

Touched they land and la! the mutt'ring
Of the tempest ceased and flutt'ring
Cloudlets edged with rosy fringes,
As the Sun oped golden hinges,
To step in to rest, sailed lightly
O'er the sky, and glowing brightly
In the East the colors seven
Gloriously linked, seemed Heaven

There to bring; the rainbow's fairness
Glowed with such celestial rareness.
In this splendor did the maiden
To her lover so grief-laden,
Bid a fond farewell; yet never
Would their spirits seem to server.
Then in anguish and despairing
At his blasted hopes, but wearing

On his brow a calm reflected
From her dying peace, selected
He a spot strewn with rare flowers
Where she soon must lie, and hours
Long as at a shrine he'd tarry,
And his burdened heart could carry
There its grief for that sweet maiden
Whom he wept for, sorrow-laden.

In the antique forest dreary,
Where the thrushes never weary,
Sang when Dawn with touch uncertain
Streaked with gold night's sable curtain,
Sang until the owlets muttered
At the faintest notes they uttered,
In the antique forest lonely,
Slept the pensive maiden only.

After years of battle gladly,
Though sore wounded, where so sadly
He had sorrowed, came he dying,
And e'en on the loved grave lying,
Yielded he his life. Thus never
Were they parted and as ever,
In the antique forest dreary,
Sang the thrushes never weary.

Now within the forest lonely,
Rest the knight and maiden only.

    BALLADS AND OTHER POEMS   Table of Contents     Musidora's Vision