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Its will intelligibly shown,
Finds he the banner in his hand,
Without a thought to such intent,
Or conscious effort of his own;
And no obstruction to prevent,
His Father's wish, and last command!
And, thus beset, he heaved a sigh;
Remembering his own prophecy
Of utter desolation, made
To Emily in the yew-tree shade:
He sighed, submitting to the power,
The might of that prophetic hour.
"No choice is left, the deed is mine —
Dead are they, dead! — and I will go,
And, for their sakes, come weal or woe,
Will lay the Relic on the shrine."
So forward with a steady will Pic went, and traversed plain and hill; And up the vale of Wharf his way Pursued; — and, on the second day, He reached a summit whence his eyes Could see the Tower of Bolton rise. There Francis for a moment's space Made halt — but hark! a noise behind Of horsemen at an eager pace! He heard, and with misgiving mind. — 'Tig Sir George Bowes who leads the Band: They come, by cruel Sussex sent; Who, when the Nortons from the hand Of Death had drunk their punishment, Bethought him, angry and ashamed, How Francis had the Banner claimed,
And with that charge had disappeared;
By all the standers-by revered.
His whole bold carriage (which had quelled
Thus far the Opposer, and repelled
All censure, enterprise so bright
That even bad men had vainly striven
Against that overcoming light)
Was then reviewed, and prompt word given,
That to what place soever fled
He should be seized, alive or dead.
The troop of horse have gained the height
Where Francis stood in open sight.
They hem him round — " Behold the proof,
Behold the Ensign in his hand!
He did not arm, he walked aloof!
For why ? — to save his Father's Land; —
Worst Traitor of them all is he,
A Traitor dark and cowardly !" —
"I am no Traitor," Francis said,
"Though this unhappy freight I bear;
It weakens me, my heart hath bled
Till it is weak — but you, beware,
Nor do a suffering Spirit wrong,
Whose self-reproaches are too strong!"
At this he from the beaten road
Retreated tow'rds a brake of thorn,
Which like a place of 'vantage showed;
And there stood bravely, though forlorn.
In self-defence with warlike brow
He stood, — nor weaponless was now;
He from a Soldier's hand had snatched
A spear, — and with his eyes he watched
Their motions, turning round and round: —
His weaker hand the Banner held;
And straight, by savage zeal impelled,
Forth rushed a Pikeman, as if he,
Not without harsh indignity,
Would seize the same: — instinctively —
To smite the Offender — with his lance
Did Francis from the brake advance;
But, from behind, a treacherous wound
Unfeeling, brought him to the ground,
A mortal stroke: — oh grief to tell!
Thus, thus, the noble Francis fell:
There did he lie of breath forsaken;
The Banner from his grasp was taken,
And borne exultingly away;
And the Body was left on the ground where it lay.
Two days, as many nights, he slept
Alone, unnoticed, and unwept;
For at that time distress and fear
Possessed the Country far and near;
The third day, One, who chanced to pass,
Beheld him stretched upon the grass.
A gentle Forester was he,
And of the Norton Tenantry;
And he had heard that by a Train
Of Horsemen Francis had been slain.
Much was he troubled — for the Man
Hath recognised his pallid face;
And to the nearest Huts he ran,
And called the People to the place.
— How desolate is Rylstone-hall!
Such was the instant thought of all;
And if the lonely Lady there
Should be, this sight she cannot bear!
Such thought the Forester expressed;
And all were swayed, and deemed it best
That, if the Priest should yield assent
And join himself to their intent,
Then, they, for Christian pity's sake,
In holy ground a grave would make;
That straightway buried he should be
In the Church-yard of the Priory.
Apart, some little space, was made
The grave where Francis must be laid.
In no confusion or neglect
This did they, — but in pure respect
That he was born of gentle Blood;
And that there was no neighbourhood
Of kindred for him in that ground:
So to the Church-yard they are bound,
Bearing the Body on a bier
In decency and humble cheer;
And psalms are sung with holy sound.
But Emily hath raised her head,
And is again disquieted;
She must behold ! — so many gone,
Where is the solitary One?
And forth from Rylstone-hall stepped she, —
To seek her Brother forth she went,
And tremblingly her course she bent
Tow'rd Bolton's ruined Priory.
She comes, and in the Vale hath heard
The Funeral dirge; — she sees the knot
Of people, sees them in one spot —
And darting like a wounded Bird
She reached the grave, and with her breast
Upon the ground received the rest, —»
The consummation, the whole ruth
And sorrow of this final truth!
Thou Spirit, whose angelic hand
Was to the Harp a strong command,
Called the submissive strings to wake
In glory for this Maiden's sake,
Say, Spirit! whither hath she fled
To hide her poor afflicted head?
What mighty forest in its gloom
Enfolds her ? — is a rifted tomb
Within the wilderness her seat?
Some island which the wild waves beat,
Is that the Sufferer's last retreat?
Or some aspiring rock, that shrouds
Its perilous front in mists and clouds?
High-climbing rock — low sunless dale —
Sea — desert — what do these avail?
Oh take her anguish and her fears
Into a deep recess of years!
'Tis done; — despoil and desolation
O'er Rylstone's fair domain have blown;
The walks and pools neglect hath sown
With weeds; the bowers are overthrown,
Or have given way to slow mutation,
While, in their ancient habitation
The Norton name hath been unknown.