William Blake (1757–1827).
THE BELL struck one, and shook the silent tower;
The graves give up their dead: fair Elenor
Walk’d by the castle gate, and lookèd in.
A hollow groan ran thro’ the dreary vaults.
She shriek’d aloud, and sunk upon the steps,
On the cold stone her pale cheeks. Sickly smells
Of death issue as from a sepulchre,
And all is silent but the sighing vaults.
Chill Death withdraws his hand, and she revives;
Amaz’d, she finds herself upon her feet,
And, like a ghost, thro’ narrow passages
Walking, feeling the cold walls with her hands.
Fancy returns, and now she thinks of bones
And grinning skulls, and corruptible death
Wrapp’d in his shroud; and now fancies she hears
Deep sighs, and sees pale sickly ghosts gliding.
At length, no fancy but reality
Distracts her. A rushing sound, and the feet
Of one that fled, approaches.—Ellen stood
Like a dumb statue, froze to stone with fear.
The wretch approaches, crying: ‘The deed is done;
Take this, and send it by whom thou wilt send;
It is my life—send it to Elenor:—
He’s dead, and howling after me for blood!
‘Take this,’ he cried; and thrust into her arms
A wet napkin, wrapp’d about; then rush’d
Past, howling: she receiv’d into her arms
Pale death, and follow’d on the wings of fear.
They pass’d swift thro’ the outer gate; the wretch,
Howling, leap’d o’er the wall into the moat,
Stifling in mud. Fair Ellen pass’d the bridge,
And heard a gloomy voice cry ‘Is it done?’
As the deer wounded, Ellen flew over
The pathless plain; as the arrows that fly
By night, destruction flies, and strikes in darkness.
She fled from fear, till at her house arriv’d.
Her maids await her; on her bed she falls,
That bed of joy, where erst her lord hath press’d:
‘Ah, woman’s fear!’ she cried; ‘ah, cursèd duke!
Ah, my dear lord! ah, wretched Elenor!
‘My lord was like a flower upon the brows
Of lusty May! Ah, life as frail as flower!
O ghastly death! withdraw thy cruel hand,
Seek’st thou that flow’r to deck thy horrid temples?
‘My lord was like a star in highest heav’n
Drawn down to earth by spells and wickedness;
My lord was like the opening eyes of day
When western winds creep softly o’er the flowers;
‘But he is darken’d; like the summer’s noon
Clouded; fall’n like the stately tree, cut down;
The breath of heaven dwelt among his leaves.
O Elenor, weak woman, fill’d with woe!’
Thus having spoke, she raisèd up her head,
And saw the bloody napkin by her side,
Which in her arms she brought; and now, tenfold
More terrified, saw it unfold itself.
Her eyes were fix’d; the bloody cloth unfolds,
Disclosing to her sight the murder’d head
Of her dear lord, all ghastly pale, clotted
With gory blood; it groan’d, and thus it spake:
‘O Elenor, I am thy husband’s head,
Who, sleeping on the stones of yonder tower,
Was ’reft of life by the accursèd duke!
A hirèd villain turn’d my sleep to death!
‘O Elenor, beware the cursèd duke;
O give not him thy hand, now I am dead;
He seeks thy love; who, coward, in the night,
Hirèd a villain to bereave my life.’
She sat with dead cold limbs, stiffen’d to stone:
She took the gory head up in her arms;
She kiss’d the pale lips; she had no tears to shed;
She hugg’d it to her breast, and groan’d her last.