Page images
PDF
EPUB

She stood appall'd; yet still the charm

Upheld her sinking soul;
Yet each bent knee the other smote,

And each wild eye did roll.
And such a sight as she saw there,

No mortal saw before,
And such a sight as she saw there,

No mortal shall see more.
A burning cauldron stood i' the midst,

The flame was fierce and high,
And all the cave, so wide and long,

Was plainly seen thereby.
And round about the cauldron stout

Twelve withered witches stood;
Their waists were bound with living snakes,

And their hair was stiff with blood. Their hands were gory too; and red

And fiercely flamed their eyes;
And they were muttering indistinct

Their hellish mysteries.
And suddenly they join'd their hands,

And uttered a joyous cry,
And round about the cauldron stout

They danced right merrily.
And now they stopp'd; and each prepared

To tell what she had done, Since last the Lady of the night

Her waning course had run. Behind a rock stood Gondoline.

Thick weeds her face did veil, And she lean'd fearful forwarder,

To hear the dreadful tale.

The first arose: She said she'd seen

Rare sport since the blind cat mew'd; She'd been to sea in a leaky sieve,

And a jovial storm had brew'd. She call'd around the winged winds,

And rais'd a devilish rout; And she laugh'd so loud, the peals were heard

Full fifteen leagues about.
She said there was a little bark

Upon the roaring wave,
And there was a woman there who'd been

To see her husband's grave.
And she had got a child in her arms,

It was her only child,
And oft its little infant pranks

Her heavy heart beguild.
And there was too in that same bark,

A father and his son;
The lad was sickly, and the sire

Was old and woe-begone.
And when the tempest waxed strong,

And the bark could no more it 'bide,
She said it was jovial fun to hear

How the poor devils cried.
The mother clasp'd her orphan child

Unto her breast, and wept;
And sweetly folded in her arms,

The careless baby slept.
And she told how, in the shape o' the wind,

As manfully it roar'd,
She twisted her hand in the infant's hair,
And threw it overboard.

And to have seen the mother's pangs,

'Twas a glorious sight to see;
The crew could scarcely hold her down

From jumping in the sea.
The hag held a lock of the hair in her hand,

And it was soft and fair:
It must have been a lovely child,

To have had such lovely hair.
And she said, the father in his arms

He held bis sickly son,
And his dying throes they fast arose,

His pains were nearly done.
And she throttled the youth with her sinewy hands,

And his face grew deadly blue;
And his father he tore his thin gray hair,

And kiss'd the livid hue.
And then she told, how she bored a hole

In the bark, and it fill'd away:
And 'twas rare to hear how some did swear,

And some did vow and pray.
The man and woman they soon were dead,

The sailors their strength did urge;
But the billows that beat were their winding-sheet,

And the winds sung their funeral dirge.
She threw the infant's hair i' the fire,

The red flame flamed high,
And round about the cauldron stout

They danced right merrily.
The second begun: She said she had done

The task that Queen Hecat had set her,
And that the devil, the father of evil,

Had never accomplish'd a better.

She said, there was an aged woman,

And she had a daughter fair,
Whose evil habits fill'd her heart

With misery and care.
The daughter had a paramour,

A wicked man was he,
And oft the woman him against

Did murmur grievously.
And the hag had work'd the daughter up

To murder her old mother,
That then she might seize on all her goods,

And wanton with her lover..
And one night as the old woman

Was sick and ill in bed,
And pondering sorely on the life

Her wicked daughter led,
She heard her footstep on the floor,

And she raised her pallid head,
And she saw her daughter, with a knife,

Approaching to her bed. -
And said, My child, I'm very ill,

I have not long to live;
Now kiss my cheek, that ere I die

Thy sins I may forgive.'
And the murderess bent to kiss her cheek,

And she lifted the sharp bright knife,
And the mother saw her fell intent,

And hard she begg'd for life.
But prayers would nothing her avail,

And she scream'd aloud with fear,
But the house was lone, and the piercing screams

Could reach no human ear.

And though that she was sick and old,

She struggled hard, and fought: The murderess cut three fingers through

Ere she could reach her throat. And the hag she held the fingers up,

The skin was mangled sore,
And they all agreed a nobler' deed

Was never done before.
And she threw the fingers in the fire,

The red flame flamed high,
And round about the cauldron stout

They danced right merrily.
The third arose: She said she'd been

To Holy Palestine:
And seen more blood in one short day,

Than they'd all seen in nine.
Now Gondoline, with fearful steps,

Drew nearer to the flame,
For much she dreaded now to hear

Her hapless lover's name.
The hag related then the sports

Of that eventful day,
When on the well-contested field

Full fifteen thousand lay,
She said that she in human gore

Above the knees did wade,
And that no tongue could truly tell

The tricks she there had play'd.
There was a gallant-featured youth,

Who like a hero fought;
He kiss'd a bracelet on his wrist,

And every danger sought.

« PreviousContinue »