THE TALE OF PER BAUD
As dawn had struck the morning shore,
We raced as children to my horse;
She picked up the skirts and lace she wore
As we ran down the track with greater force!
Then saddled upon my ivory steed,
We went where the beaten track would lead,
Following its shuffled, winding course,
Over the hills and riverbanks
On my proud steed’s white thundering flanks.
Along the track we came by a wood
And saw between the boughs, a gate
That perhaps for many years, had stood
Dwarfed by the trunks, in its iron, ornate,
Austere manner, defending the way
To some ancestral manor that lay
Beyond the lindens in desolate,
Cheerless gloom, where lordly throng
Bellows as the day is long!
Perhaps there hides a devilish mind
Within some hideous features, strange,
That’s tormented by the sun, behind
The curtained casements of the grange;
And by moonlit corridors
Is found deep in some demonic laws,
Conjuring doom, in hope to change
His poor misfortunes and foolish woe,
That sure to the devil’s own, must go!
Or maybe some maid fears her fate
As she sits and dreams of some past love,
That often would come to this rusted gate
With its crest and lions cast above
To clasp their hands between the bars,
Beneath the magnitude of stars,
Before she hastened to some grove
And down a pathway’s sombre glide
To find her lighted casement, wide?
We walked beside the broken rails
Where the sycamores over-hung
The speedwell shoots, beside the trails
Narrow edge where seeds were flung
By hearty gales in olden days,
By nature amused in idle ways!
And here the tender buds grow strong
That through the morn had turned aside
From blooms behind the rails, that died.
We briefly strayed upon a bridge
To look into a babbling stream,
And mosses grew thick that hung from its ridge
Into the water, green;
And in its black and reedy flow
We heard it murmur long and low
About the rustling woods, serene;
Then drifting as if tossed away
Into its quick, measureless grey,
A single rose, along, was swept,
Indestructible on its rippled fate,
And ‘tween her and me, our hearts wept:
‘Tis a sign there lurks some sad times, great,
Ahead for us, but let’s not dwell
On what is to come, for who can tell
If destiny is yet worth the wait
When guided by some unseen hand
That we can never understand?
We left the water’s woeful scene
That through the woods had fixed us by
Its cursive flow and mirrored green,
With its destructiveness and sly
Meandering from hill to hill!
And chimney pots were visible still
Upon the darkened sky,
And steps led down where the stream flowed past:
Perhaps some Roman walked here last!
We walked along in playful mood,
Till I did not know what sad air sprung
Upon my thoughts, and turned my blood
Cold in veins that once were strong,
When we came upon a clearing, filled
With little stones that struck and chilled
Our hearts to see, as each one clung
In mossy heaps, and strewn with vine –
We quickly stepped through their decline.
Some wayside, sentimental site
Where children past, have sat and cried
For favoured pets, sent to the night:
Ancestral fossils, dear and dried!
I looked upon their fond farewells
That time erased on animals…
Stone and stately repose and stride:
We could not look long on those graves, unloved,
And I saw in her, more than me, she was moved!
She cried and I held her close to me,
Yet nothing stifled her sobs or tears;
I said: This place knows misery,
Why add to what’s been here for years?
We can choose to leave or stay
But these bones can know no other way;
They know not when the darkness nears,
Nor of the nightingale, sweet, that sings:
For they know none of nature’s things:
The wind that stirs between the rows
Of larch and ash, and pine and oak;
They can’t see how the daisy grows
So simple over plains, that stroke
The fields and rivers and forest edge,
Or how the light on the thistles and the hedge
Glints with the dew and morning smoke,
And sway about upon the breeze –
My dear, they can see none of these!
And on we walked with my horse behind,
Yet she was sad between the grey
And green boughs, that each side, lined
The track that winds away…
For comfort, I could do no more
Than hold her near as oft’ before.
O how I remembered her by the bay
When I called to her, and hearts were met,
And our weary course was set.
She seemed a dream from out the mist,
But now I hold her and I know
That when our lips first met and kissed,
I knew not the terror on her brow.
All through the morn, we saw no-one,
Just her and me and my horse, alone,
Following where’er the track may go.
Silence had filled the terrible wood,
And O how I would sleep if I could!
Then we saw the lone estate
And I guessed it some baronial home,
Till my love declared it once her late
Grand-father’s house, where she would roam
In youth about its gloomy halls
And watch the splendid summer balls.
I questioned her and sought her name,
Yet nothing would she say nor dare,
But only that sad times, were there,
For locked within each stately room
Where oft’ she dreamt that she had known
The wasted lips, from out the tomb
Were equally wasted as her own!
The sun shone on the ivy clad
Walls where times both good and bad,
Were now to foul decay’s reign, thrown;
The broken casements were open wide
And showed no sign of life inside!
And across the wide sweeping lawn
Dark rows of planted maples spread
Over the rose and the wild hawthorn
That had wandered and withered beneath them, dead.
I imagined the scene of long ago
Where lovers sat ‘neath the boughs aglow,
Content at what was and was not said,
Under the pink and opal swoon
Of shady boughs, one fragrant June!
Then I turned to see her eyes fall sad,
To see her youth in long days, flood
Fast upon her, in myriad
Streams that wrung her maidenhood;
The mood between us seemed to rest
On melancholy mind and breast!
She shook to see the dark house brood
Like a haunted shell within the park;
Dreary to look on, with endless dark
Appalling windows that look out
Across the lawns and sunken pond,
Now dry, though once stocked with trout…
There a summer-house used to stand
Till an oak came crashing down
One winter morn, when winds were blown;
This garden, which one time was grand
Now fills my heart with woe to see
What time’s thrown at it, carelessly!
My love let us away from here,
I see great sadness in your eyes,
For childhood haunts are never cheer
When on returning, childhood dies,
And we become but ghosts of time,
Where memories, past, reach out, sublime.
We passed the awful scenes disguise
And could not turn once, down the track,
To the ominous ruin that called her back.