"I am come—I am come! once again from the tomb, In return for the ring which you gave; That I am thine, and that thou art mine, This nuptial pledge receive." He lay like a corse 'neath the Demon's force, And she wrapp'd him in a shround; And she fixed her teeth his heart beneath, And she drank of the warm life-blood! And ever and anon murmur'd the lips of stone, "Soft and warm is this couch of thine, Thou'lt to-morrow be laid on a colder bed— Albert! that bed will be mine!"
Beneath the lamp the lady bowed, And slowly rolled her eyes around; Then drawing in her breath aloud, Like one that shuddered, she unbound The cincture from beneath her breast: Her silken robe, and inner vest, Dropt to her feet, and full in view, Behold! her bosom, and half her side— A sight to dream of, not to tell! O shield her! shield sweet Christabel! Yet Geraldine nor speaks nor stirs; Ah! what a stricken look was hers! Deep from within she seems half-way To lift some weight with sick assay, And eyes the maid and seeks delay; Then suddenly as one defied Collects herself in scorn and pride, And lay down by the Maiden's side!— And in her arms the maid she took, Ah wel-a-day! And with low voice and doleful look These words did say: 'In the touch of this bosom there worketh a spell, Which is lord of thy utterance, Christabel!
Left to herself, the serpent now began To change; her elfin blood in madness ran, Her mouth foam'd, and the grass, therewith besprent, Wither'd at dew so sweet and virulent; Her eyes in torture fix'd, and anguish drear, Hot, glaz'd, and wide, with lid-lashes all sear, Flash'd phosphor and sharp sparks, without one cooling tear. The colours all inflam'd throughout her train, She writh'd about, convuls'd with scarlet pain: A deep volcanian yellow took the place Of all her milder-mooned body's grace; And, as the lava ravishes the mead, Spoilt all her silver mail, and golden brede; Made gloom of all her frecklings, streaks and bars, Eclips'd her crescents, and lick'd up her stars: So that, in moments few, she was undrest Of all her sapphires, greens, and amethyst, And rubious-argent: of all these bereft, Nothing but pain and ugliness were left.
She rose among us where we lay. She wept, we put our work away. She chilled our laughter, stilled our play; And spread a silence there. And darkness shot across the sky, And once, and twice, we heard her cry; And saw her lift white hands on high And toss her troubled hair. What shape was this who came to us, With basilisk eyes so ominous, With mouth so sweet, so poisonous, And tortured hands so pale? We saw her wavering to and fro, Through dark and wind we saw her go; Yet what her name was did not know; And felt our spirits fail. We tried to turn away; but still Above we heard her sorrow thrill; And those that slept, they dreamed of ill And dreadful things: Of skies grown red with rending flames And shuddering hills that cracked their frames; Of twilights foul with wings; And skeletons dancing to a tune; And cries of children stifled soon; And over all a blood-red moon A dull and nightmare size. They woke, and sought to go their ways, Yet everywhere they met her gaze, Her fixed and burning eyes. Who are you now, —we cried to her— Spirit so strange, so sinister? We felt dead winds above us stir; And in the darkness heard A voice fall, singing, cloying sweet, Heavily dropping, though that heat, Heavy as honeyed pulses beat, Slow word by anguished word. And through the night strange music went With voice and cry so darkly blent We could not fathom what they meant; Save only that they seemed To thin the blood along our veins, Foretelling vile, delirious pains, And clouds divulging blood-red rains Upon a hill undreamed. And this we heard: "Who dies for me, He shall possess me secretly, My terrible beauty he shall see, And slake my body's flame. But who denies me cursed shall be, And slain, and buried loathsomely, And slimed upon with shame." And darkness fell. And like a sea Of stumbling deaths we followed, we Who dared not stay behind. There all night long beneath a cloud We rose and fell, we struck and bowed, We were the ploughman and the ploughed, Our eyes were red and blind. And some, they said, had touched her side, Before she fled us there; And some had taken her to bride; And some lain down for her and died; Who had not touched her hair, Ran to and fro and cursed and cried And sought her everywhere. "Her eyes have feasted on the dead, And small and shapely is her head, And dark and small her mouth," they said, "And beautiful to kiss; Her mouth is sinister and red As blood in moonlight is." Then poets forgot their jeweled words And cut the sky with glittering swords; And innocent souls turned carrion birds To perch upon the dead. Sweet daisy fields were drenched with death, The air became a charnel breath, Pale stones were splashed with red. Green leaves were dappled bright with blood And fruit trees murdered in the bud; And when at length the dawn Came green as twilight from the east, And all that heaving horror ceased, Silent was every bird and beast, And that dark voice was gone. No word was there, no song, no bell, No furious tongue that dream to tell; Only the dead, who rose and fell Above the wounded men; And whisperings and wails of pain Blown slowly from the wounded grain, Blown slowly from the smoking plain; And silence fallen again. Until at dusk, from God knows where, Beneath dark birds that filled the air, Like one who did not hear or care, Under a blood-red cloud, An aged ploughman came alone And drove his share through flesh and bone, And turned them under to mould and stone; All night long he ploughed.
A lily in a twilight place? A moonflow'r in the lonely night?— Strange beauty of a woman's face Of wildflow'r-white! The rain that hangs a star's green ray Slim on a leaf-point's restlessness, Is not so glimmering green and gray As was her dress. I drew her dark hair from her eyes, And in their deeps beheld a while Such shadowy moonlight as the skies Of Hell may smile. She held her mouth up redly wan, And burning cold,—I bent and kissed Such rosy snow as some wild dawn Makes of a mist. God shall not take from me that hour, When round my neck her white arms clung! When 'neath my lips, like some fierce flower, Her white throat swung! Or words she murmured while she leaned! Witch-words, she holds me softly by,— The spell that binds me to a fiend Until I die.
"Why looks my lord so deadly pale? Why fades the crimson from his cheek? What can my dearest husband ail? Thy heartfelt cares, O Herman, speak! "Why, at the silent hour of rest, Dost thou in sleep so sadly mourn? Has tho' with heaviest grief oppress'd, Griefs too distressful to be borne. "Why heaves thy breast? — why throbs thy heart? O speak! and if there be relief Thy Gertrude solace shall impart, If not, at least shall share thy grief. "Wan is that cheek, which once the bloom Of manly beauty sparkling shew'd; Dim are those eyes, in pensive gloom, That late with keenest lustre glow'd. "Say why, too, at the midnight hour, You sadly pant and tug for breath, As if some supernat'ral pow'r Were pulling you away to death? "Restless, tho' sleeping, still you groan, And with convulsive horror start; O Herman! to thy wife make known That grief which preys upon thy heart." "O Gertrude! how shall I relate Th' uncommon anguish that I feel; Strange as severe is this my fate, — A fate I cannot long conceal. "In spite of all my wonted strength, Stern destiny has seal'd my doom; The dreadful malady at length Wil drag me to the silent tomb!" "But say, my Herman, what's the cause Of this distress, and all thy care. That, vulture-like, thy vitals gnaws, And galls thy bosom with despair? "Sure this can be no common grief, Sure this can be no common pain? Speak, if this world contain relief, That soon thy Gertrude shall obtain." "O Gertrude, 'tis a horrid cause, O Gertrude, 'tis unusual care, That, vulture-like, my vitals gnaws, And galls my bosom with despair. "Young Sigismund, my once dear friend, But lately he resign'd his breath; With others I did him attend Unto the silent house of death. "For him I wept, for him I mourn'd, Paid all to friendship that was due; But sadly friendship is return'd, Thy Herman he must follow too! "Must follow to the gloomy grave, In spite of human art or skill; No pow'r on earth my life can save, 'Tis fate's unalterable will! "Young Sigismund, my once dear friend, But now my persecutor foul, Doth his malevolence extend E'en to the torture of my soul. "By night, when, wrapt in soundest sleep, All mortals share a soft repose, My soul doth dreadful vigils keep, More keen than which hell scarely knows. "From the drear mansion of the tomb, From the low regions of the dead, The ghost of Sigismund doth roam, And dreadful haunts me in my bed! "There, vested in infernal guise, (By means to me not understood,) Close to my side the goblin lies, And drinks away my vital blood! "Sucks from my veins the streaming life, And drains the fountain of my heart! O Gertrude, Gertrude! dearest wife! Unutterable is my smart. "When surfeited, the goblin dire, With banqueting by suckled gore, Will to his sepulchre retire, Till night invites him forth once more. "Then will he dreadfully return, And from my veins life's juices drain; Whilst, slumb'ring, I with anguish mourn, And toss with agonizing pain! "Already I'm exhausted, spent; His carnival is nearly o'er, My soul with agony is rent, To-morrow I shall be no more! "But, O my Gertrude! dearest wife! The keenest pangs hath last remain'd— When dead, I too shall seek thy life, Thy blood by Herman shall be drain'd! "But to avoid this horrid fate, Soon as I'm dead and laid in earth, Drive thro' my corpse a jav'lin straight; — This shall prevent my coming forth. "O watch with me, this last sad night, Watch in your chamber here alone, But carefully conceal the light Until you hear my parting groan. "Then at what time the vesper-bell Of yonder convent shall be toll'd, That peal shall ring my passing knell, And Herman's body shall be cold! "Then, and just then, thy lamp make bare, The starting ray, the bursting light, Shall from my side the goblin scare, And shew him visible to sight!" The live-long night poor Gertrude sate, Watch'd by her sleeping, dying lord; The live-long night she mourn'd his fate, The object whom her soul ador'd. Then at what time the vesper-bell Of yonder convent sadly toll'd, The, then was peal'd his passing knell, The hapless Herman he was cold! Just at that moment Gertrude drew From 'neath her cloak the hidden light; When, dreadful! she beheld in view The shade of Sigismund! — sad sight! Indignant roll'd his ireful eyes, That gleam'd with wild horrific stare; And fix'd a moment with surprise, Beheld aghast th' enlight'ning glare. His jaws cadaverous were besmear'd With clott'd carnage o'er and o'er, And all his horrid whole appear'd Distent, and fill'd with human gore! With hideous scowl the spectre fled; She shriek'd aloud; — then swoon'd away! The hapless Herman in his bed, All pale, a lifeless body lay! Next day in council 'twas decree, (Urg'd at the instance of the state,) That shudd'ring nature should be freed From pests like these ere 'twas too late. The choir then burst the fun'ral dome Where Sigismund was lately laid, And found him, tho' within the tomb, Still warm as life, and undecay'd. With blood his visage was distain'd, Ensanguin'd were his frightful eyes, Each sign of former life remain'd, Save that all motionless he lies. The corpse of Herman they contrive To the same sepulchre to take, And thro' both carcases they drive, Deep in the earth, a sharpen'd stake! By this was finish'd their career, Thro' this no longer they can roam; From them their friends have nought to fear, Both quiet keep the slumb'ring tomb.
. . . Unquenched, unquenchable, Around, within, thy heart shall dwell; Nor ear can hear nor tongue can tell The tortures of that inward hell! But first, on earth as vampire sent, Thy corse shall from its tomb be rent: Then ghastly haunt thy native place, And suck the blood of all thy race; There from thy daughter, sister, wife, At midnight drain the stream of life; Yet loathe the banquet which perforce Must feed thy livid living corse: Thy victims ere they yet expire Shall know the demon for their sire, As cursing thee, thou cursing them, Thy flowers are withered on the stem. But one that for thy crime must fall, The youngest, most beloved of all, Shall bless thee with a father's name — That word shall wrap thy heart in flame! Yet must thou end thy task, and mark Her cheek's last tinge, her eye's last spark, And the last glassy glance must view Which freezes o'er its lifeless blue; Then with unhallowed hand shalt tear The tresses of her yellow hair, Of which in life a lock when shorn Affection's fondest pledge was worn, But now is borne away by thee, Memorial of thine agony!