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That tale, so sad! which, still to memory dear,
From its sweet source can call the sacred tear,
And (lull'd to rest stern Reason's harsh control)
Steal its soft magic to the passive soul.
These hallow'd shades,—these trees that woo the wind,
Recal its faintest features to my mind.
A hundred passing years, with march sublime,
Have swept beneath the silent wing of time,
Since, in yon hamlet's solitary shade,
Reclusely dwelt the far-fam's Clifton Maid,
The beauteous Margaret; for her each swain
Confess'd in private his peculiar pain;
In secret sigh'd, a victim to despair,
Nor dared to hope to win the peerless fair.
No more the shepherd on the blooming mea
Attuned to gaiety his artless reed,
No more entwined the pansied wreath, to deck
His favourite wether's unpolluted neck;
But, listless, by yon babbling stream reclined,
He mixed his sobbings with the passing wind,
Bemoan'd his helpless love; or, boldly bent,
Far from these smiling fields, a rover went,
O'er distant lands, in search of ease, to roam,
A self-will'd exile from his native home.
Yet not to all the maid express'd disdain ;
Her Bateman loved, nor loved the youth in vain.
Full oft, low whispering o'er these arching boughs,
The echoing vault responded to their vows.
As here, deep hidden from the glare of day,
Enamour'd, oft they took their secret way.
Yon bosky dingle, still the rustics name; 'Twas there the blushing maid confess'd her flame. Down yon green lane they oft were seen to hie, When evening slumber'd on the western sky,
That blasted yew, that mouldering walnut bare,
Each bears mementos of the fated pair.
One eve, when Autumn loaded every breeze
With the fall'n honours of the mourning trees,
The maiden waited at the accustom'd bower,
And waited long beyond the appointed hour,
Yet Bateman came not;-o'er the woodland drear,
Howling portentous, did the winds career;
And bleak and dismal on the leafless woods
The fitful rains rush'd down in sullen floods ;
The night was dark; as, now and then, the gale
Paused for a moment,-Margaret listen'd, pale;
But through the covert to her anxious ear
No rustling footsteps spoke her lover near.
Strange fears now. fill'd her breast,--she knew not why,
She sigh’d, and Bateman's name was in each sigh.
She hears a noise,--'tis he,-he comes at last;—
Alas! 'twas but the gale which hurried past :
But now she hears a quickening footstep sound,
Lightly it comes, and nearer does it bound;
'Tis Bateman's self, he springs into her arms,
'Tis he that clasps, and chides her vain alarmś.
Yet why this silence?-I bave waited long,
And the cold storm has yell’d the trees among.
And now thou’rt here my fears are fled-yet speak,
Why does the salt tear moisten on thy cheek?
Say, what is wrong?-Now, through a parting cloud,
The pale moon peer'd from her tempestuous shroud,
And Bateman's face was seen :-'twas deadly white,
And sorrow seem'd to sicken in his sight.
Oh, speak, my love again the maid, conjured,
• Why is thy heart in sullen woe immured?'.
He rais'd his head, and thrice essay'd to tell,
Thrice from his lips the unfinish'd accents fell:
When thus at last reluctantly he broke
His boding silence, and the maid bespoke:
Grieve not, my love, but ere the morn advance,
I on these fields must cast my parting glance;
For three long years, by cruel fate's command,
I go to languish in a foreign land.
Oh, Margaret! omens dire have met my view,
Say, when far distant, wilt thou bear me true?
Should honours tempt thee, and should riches fee,
Wouldst thou forget thy ardent vows to me,
And, on the silken couch of wealth reclined,
Banish thy faithful Bateman from thy mind?'
"Oh! why,' replies the maid, 'my faith thus prove,
Canst thou, ah, canst thou then suspect my love?
Hear me, just God! if from my traitorous heart
My Bateman's fond remembrance e'er shall part ;
If, when he hail again his native shore,
He finds his Margaret true to him no more,
May fiends of hell, and every power of dread,
Conjoin'd, then drag me from my perjur'd bed,
And hurl me headlong down these awful steeps,
To find deserved death in yonder deeps!'*
Thus spake the maid, and from her finger drew
A golden ring, and broke it quick in two;
One half she in her lovely bosom hides,
The other, trembling, to her love confides.
This bind the vow,' she said, 'this mystic charm
No future recantation can disarm;
The right vindictive does the fates involve,
No tears can move it, no regrets dissolve.'
She ceased. The death-bird gave a dismal cry,
The river moan'd, the wild gale whistled by,
* This part of the Trent is commonly called . The Clifton Deeps.'
And once again the Lady of the night
Behind a heavy cloud withdrew her light.
Trembling she view'd these portents with dismay:
But gently Bateman kiss'd her fears away:
Yet still he felt conceal'd a secret smart,
Still melancholy bodings fill'd his heart.
When to the distant land the youth was sped,
A lonely life the moody maiden led.
Still would she trace each dear, each well-known walk,
Still by the moonlight to her love would talk,
And fancy, as she paced among the trees,
She heard his whispers in the dying breeze.
Thus two years glided on in silent grief;
The third, her bosom own'd the kind relief:
Absence had cooled her love-the impoverish'd flame
Was dwindling fast, when lo! the tempter came;
He offer'd wealth, and all the joys of life,
And the weak maid became another's wife!
Six guilty months had mark'd the false one's crime, When Bateman hail'd once more his native clime; Sure of her constancy, elate he came, The lovely partner of his soul to claim: Light was his heart, as up
the well-known way He bent his steps--and all his thoughts were gay. Oh! who can paint bis agonizing throes, When on his ear the fatal news arose! Chill'd with amazement, senseless with the blow, He stood a marble monument of woe; Till call’d to all the horrors of despair, He smote his brow, and tore his horrent hair; Then rush'd impetuous from the dreadful spot, And sought those scenes (by memory ne'er forgot), Those scenes, the witness of their growing flame, And, now, like witnesses of Margaret's shame.
'Twas night-he sought the river's lonely shore,
And trac'd again their former wanderings o'er :
Now on the bank in silent grief he stood,
And gazed intently on the stealing flood;
Death in his mien, and madness in his eye,
He watch'd the waters as they murmur'd by;
Bade the base murd'ress triumph o'er his grave-
Prepar'd to plunge into the whelming wave.
Yet still he stood irresolutely bent,
Religion sternly stay'd his rash intent.
He knelt. Cool play'd upon his cheek the wind,
And fann'd the fever of his maddening mind:
The willows wav'd, the stream it sweetly swept,
The paly moonbeam on its surface slept, .
And all was peace; -he felt the general calm
O’er his rack'd bosom shed a genial balm:
When casting far behind his streaming eye,
He saw the Grove, in fancy saw her lie,
His Margaret, lull'd in Germain's* arms to rest,
And all the demon rose within his breast.
Convulsive now, he clench'd his trembling hand,
Cast his dark eye once more upon the land, /
Then at one spring he spurn'd the yielding bank,
And in the calm deceitful current sank.
Sad, on the solitude of night, the sound,
As in the stream he plung’d, was heard around:
Then all was still the wave was rough no more,
The river swept as sweetly as before ;
The willows waved, the moonbeams shone serene,
peace returning brooded o'er the scene. Now see upon the perjured fair one hang Remorse's glooms and never-ceasing pang.
• Germain is the traditionary name of her husband.