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Oh, Heaven! the deep fidelity of love!

WHERE, like a courser starting from the spur,

Rushes the deep-blue current of the Rhine,

A little island rests; green cypresses

Are its chief growth, bending their heavy boughs

O'er grey stones marking long-forgotten graves.

A convent once stood here; and yet remain

Relics of other time, pillars and walls,

Worn away and discoloured, yet so hung

With wreaths of ivy, that the work of ruin

Is scarcely visible. How like this is

To the so false exterior of the world!

Outside all looks so fresh and beautiful;

But mildew, rot, and worm work on beneath,

Until the heart is utterly decayed.

There is one grave distinguished from the rest,

But only by a natural monument:--

A thousand deep-blue violets have grown

Over the sod.--I do love violets:

They tell the history of woman's love;

They open with the earliest breath of spring;

Lead a sweet life of perfume, dew, and light;

And, if they perish, perish with a sigh

Delicious as that life. On the hot June,

They shed no perfume: the flowers may remain,

But the rich breathing of their leaves is past:--

Like woman, they have lost their loveliest gift,

When yielding to the fiery hour of passion:

The violet breath of love is purity.

On the shore opposite, a tower stands

In ruins, with a mourning robe of moss

Hung on the grey and shattered walls, which fling

A shadow on the waters; it comes o'er

The waves, all bright with sunshine, like the gloom

Adversity throws on the heart's young gladness.

I saw the river on a summer eve:

The sun was setting over fields of corn,--

'Twas like a golden sea;--and on the left

Were vineyards, whence the grapes shone forth like


Rubies, and lighted amber; and thence spread

A wide heath covered with thick furze, whose


So bright, are like the pleasures of this world,

Beautiful in the distance, but, once gained,

Little worth, piercing through the thorns which


Around them ever. Wilder and more steep

The banks upon the river's other side:

Tall pines rose up like warriors; the wild rose

Was ther ein all its luxury of bloom,

Sown by the wind, nursed by the dew and sun;

And on the steeps were crosses of grey and old,

Which told the fate of some poor traveller.

The dells were filled with dwarfed oaks and firs;

And on the heights which mastered all the rest,

Were castles, tenanted now by the owl,

The spider's garrison: there is not one

Without some strange old legend of the days

When love was life and death,--when lady's glove

Or sunny curl were banners of the battle.

My history is of the tower which looks

Upon the little island

LORD HERBERT sat him in his hall: the hearth

Was blazing as it mocked the storm without

With its red cheerfulness; the dark hounds lay

Around the fire; and the old knight had doffed

His hunting-cloak, and listened to the lute

And song of the fair girl who at his knee

Was seated. In the April hour of life,

When showers are led by rainbows, and the heart

Is all bloom and green leaves, was ISABELLE:

A band of pearls, white like the brow o'er which

They past, kept the bright curls from off the fore-head;


They wandered to her feet--a golden shower.

She had that changing colour on the cheek

Which speaks the heart so well; those deep-blue


Like summer's darkest sky, but not so glad--

They were too passionate for happiness.

Light was within her eyes, bloom on her cheek,

Her song had raised the spirit of her race

Upon her eloquent brow. She had just told

Of the young ROLAND's deeds,--how he had stood

Against a host and conquered; when there came

A pilgrim to the hall--and never yet

Had stranger asked for shelter and in vain!

The board was spread, the Rhenish flask was drained;

Again they gathered round the hearth, again

The maiden raised her son; and at its close,--

"I would give worlds," she said, "to see this chief,

"This gallant ROLAND! I could deem him all

"A man must honour and a woman love!"

"Lady, I pray thee not recall those words,

"For I am ROLAND!" From his face he threw

The hood and pilgrim's cloak,--and a young knight

Knelt before ISABELLE!

They loved;--they were beloved. Oh, happiness!

I have said all that can be said of bliss,

In saying that they loved. The young heart has

Such store of wealth in its own fresh wild pulse;

And it is Love that works the mind, and brings

Its treasure to the light. I did love once,--

Loved as youth--woman--Genius loves; though


My heart is chilled and seared, and taught to wear

That falsest of false things--a mask of smiles;

Yet every pulse throbs at the memory

Of that which has been! Love is like the glass,

That throws its own rich colour over all,

And makes all beautiful. The morning looks

Its very loveliest, when the fresh air

Has tinged the cheek we love with its glad red;

And the hot noon flits by most rapidly,

When dearest eyes gaze with us on the page

Bearing the poet's words of love:--and then

The twilight walk, when the linked arms can feel

The beating of the heart; upon the air

There is a music never heard but once,--

A light the eyes can never see again;

Each star has its own prophecy of hope,

And every song and tale that breathe of love

Seem echoes of the heart.

And time past by--

As time will ever pass, when Love has lent

His rainbow plumes to aid his flight--and Spring

Had wedded with the Summer, when a steed

Stood at LORD HERBERT's gate,--and ISABELLE

Had wept farewell to ROLAND, and had given

Her blue scarf for his colours. He was gone

To raise his vassals, for LORD HERBERT's towers

Were menaced with a siege; and he had sworn

By ISABELLE's white hand that he would claim

Its beauty only as a conqueror's prize.

Autumn was on the woods, when the blue Rhine

Grew red with blood:--LORD HERBERT's banner


And gallant is the bearing of his ranks.

But where is he who said that he would ride

At his right hand to battle?--ROLAND! where--

Oh! where is ROLAND?

ISABELLE has watched

Day after day, night after night, in vain,

Till she has wept in hopelessness, and thought

Upon old histories, and said with them,

"There is no faith in man's fidelity!"

ISABELLE stood upon her lonely tower;

And as the evening-star rose up she saw

An armed train bearing her father's banner

In triumph to the castle. Down she flew

To gree the victors:--they had reached the hall

Before herself. What saw the maiden there?--

A bier!--her father laid upon that bier!

ROLAND was kneeling by the side, his face

Bowed on his hands and hid;--but ISABELLE

Knew the dark curling hair and stately form,

And threw her on his breast. He shrank away

As she were death, or sickness, or despair.

"ISABELLE! it was I who slew thy father!"

She fell almost a corpse upon the body.

It was too true! With all a lover's speed,

ROLAND had sought the thickest of the fight;

He gained the field just as the crush began;--Unwitting

of his colours, he had slain

The father of his worshipped ISABELLE!

They met once more:--and ISABELLE was changed

As much as if a lapse of years had past:

She was so thin, so pale, and her dim eye

Had wept away its luxury of blue.

She had cut off her sunny hair, and wore

A robe of black, with a white crucifix:--

It told her destiny--her youth was vowed

To Heaven. And in the convent of the isle,

That day she was to enter, ROLAND stood

Like marble, cold and pale and motionless:

The heavy sweat upon his brow was all

His sign of life. At length he snatched the scarf

That ISABELLE had tied around his neck,

And gave it her,--and prayed that she would wave

Its white folds from the lattice of her cell

At each pale rising of the evening-star,

That he might knew she lived. They parted.--Never

Those lovers met again! But ROLAND built

A tower beside the Rhine, and there he dwelt,

And every evening saw the white scarf waved,

And heard the vesper-hymn of ISABELLE

Float in deep sweetness o'er the silent river.

One evening, and he did not see the scarf,

He watched and watched in vain; at length his hope

Grew desperate, and he prayed his ISABELLE

Might have forgotten him:--but midnight came,

And with it came the convent's heavy bell,

Tolling for a departed soul; and then

He knew that ISABELLE was dead! Next day

They laid her in her grave;--and the moon rose

Upon a mourner weeping there:--that tomb

Was ROLAND's deathbed!